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Armenian Opposition Ends Nonstop Protests

HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrossian addresses supporters at a rally on October 1.
YEREVAN -- Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian has ended more than a week of demonstrations by his Armenian National Congress (HAK) in Yerevan despite not securing any concessions from the government, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Addressing thousands of supporters rallying in Liberty Square on October 8, Ter-Petrossian said the HAK leadership had decided to "temporarily stop" the protests because it believed they have already served their purpose.

"The current activation of the popular movement has made more visible and deepened cracks within the government camp as well as the already existing widespread public distrust and contempt toward it," Ter-Petrossian said, presenting a statement adopted by the HAK.

The announcement provoked cries of discontent from sections of the crowd that demanded the round-the-clock sit-in continue until the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian agrees to call early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Ter-Petrossian sternly rejected the objections. "As I said, the success of our struggle depends only on discipline and the unconditional execution of decisions by the [HAK] leadership. He who doesn't behave in this way helps Serzh Sarkisian," he said, prompting applause from other demonstrators.

The HAK set up a tent camp in Liberty Square on September 30 in hopes of stepping up pressure on the authorities. At the same time it offered to resume talks with Sarkisian's ruling coalition without preconditions.

Ter-Petrossian's bloc previously made the resumption conditional on the release of an opposition activist controversially arrested in August.

Coalition representatives have made clear that they will not negotiate with the HAK until the "illegal" protests are over. In another sign of its self-confidence, the Sarkisian administration has still not responded to another, more far-reaching offer made by Ter-Petrossian.

Speaking on September 23, Armenia's first president said the HAK was ready to reconsider its demands for fresh elections in case of a "reasonable compromise" with the government.

The HAK statement read by Ter-Petrossian sought to put a brave face on the bloc's failure so far to clinch concessions from Sarkisian.

It said the eight-day protests ended "the atmosphere of fear" in Armenia and debunked "the myth about the omnipotence of the [ruling] kleptocracy." It urged HAK supporters to be prepared for a repeat of such actions "at the required moment."

"From now on, our main and sole slogan will be the immediate resignation of Serzh Sarkisian," added the statement.

Ter-Petrossian also announced that the HAK will hold its next rally on October 28.