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Armenian Opposition Activist Urges Winter Push For Power

Aram Sarkisian

Aram Sarkisian

YEREVAN -- A leading member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) says that the opposition alliance should capitalize on "a seasonal rise" in popular disaffection with the government and try to unseat President Serzh Sarkisian this winter, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Aram Sarkisian (no relation to the president), whose Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party is a major member of the HAK, said he believed the bloc should launch a fresh campaign of antigovernment protests before parliamentary elections in May.

"In my view, February is the most convenient time to launch that process," he told RFE/RL in an interview.

Aram Sarkisian claimed that HAK rallies in February would be joined by tens of thousands of Armenians who traditionally return home in November and December after seasonal work in Russia.

"Imagine if 30,000 or 40,000 of them participate in our rallies," he said. "That holds potential for the HAK."

An outspoken opposition activist, Aram Sarkisian served as prime minister from 1999 to 2000.

He said that many other people would also take part in antigovernment rallies because they will have spent much of their savings on New Year's celebrations and will be "struggling to get by" in the following weeks. "I will propose this as an option to the [HAK]," he said of his plan.

The HAK staged daily demonstrations in Yerevan's Liberty Square as recently as last month. Only several thousand people attended them, far fewer than in previous rallies. The bloc also ended the weeklong campaign without gaining any government concessions.

The HAK's top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, acknowledged on October 28 that the country's largest opposition force may well fail to force Sarkisian to resign soon. He said it should therefore start preparing for the May parliamentary elections. The HAK will specifically seek to ensure their freedom and fairness, Ter-Petrossian added.

By contrast, Aram Sarkisian insisted that the HAK should "defeat the government before the elections" by forcing the ruling Republican Party (HHK) to withdraw from the race. The polls cannot be democratic if they are contested by the HHK, he claimed.

He noted that "other options" are also being suggested to the HAK leadership. "The [HAK] is holding discussions on its next steps at the moment," he said without elaborating.

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