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Armenian Government, Opposition To Discuss Holding Early Elections

Levon Zurabian said, "We proposed that early presidential elections be held in the middle of October."
Levon Zurabian said, "We proposed that early presidential elections be held in the middle of October."
YEREVAN -- Officials from the Armenian governing coalition and the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) say they have agreed to discuss the heated issue of holding early presidential and parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The two negotiating teams said they had decided during talks in Yerevan today to discuss "two important issues," and one of them is the HAK demand to hold fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.

For their part, the representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party (HHK) and its two coalition partners offered to discuss "the formulation of rules ensuring civilized competition aimed at the proper conduct of elections." The HAK delegation agreed to that.

Levon Zurabian, the chief HAK negotiator at today's second round of talks between the two sides, said, "we proposed that early presidential elections be held in the middle of October."

"In our view, early presidential elections would also create extremely serious guarantees for the conduct of free, fair, and transparent parliamentary elections," he said.

Zurabian added that the two sides did not discuss the merits of those proposals and focused instead on the agenda of further talks between the HAK and the ruling coalition.

The HAK sought to substantiate its demands in a written statement issued immediately after the meeting.

"The only way to get the country out of this situation and overcome the internal political crisis is to form a government elected by and accountable to the people that would restore trust in the institutions of state authority," it said.

Sarkisian and other coalition leaders have repeatedly said that Armenian authorities have no intention of calling fresh elections. But they say they are ready to discuss the idea with the HAK in order to avert political upheavals.

They say the ongoing dialogue -- which is welcomed by the West -- will also help to create a more democratic and tolerant political culture in the country.

The two other major opposition parties, which are at odds with the HAK, dismiss such statements and say that the two sides are looking to cut secret deals that would only benefit themselves.

"This is an attempt by the two sides to maintain their dominance of the political scene," said Artsvik Minasian, a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun).

Minasian added that "this dialogue will lead nowhere. Let nobody think that we are jealous," he said at a news conference. "There is no such thing."

"I don't watch soap operas," Armen Martirosian, a leader of the Zharangutiun (Heritage) party, said when asked by reporters to comment on the government-HAK talks.

Read more in Armenian here