Governing Coalition Refuses to Restart Negotiations Before the End of “Illegal Gathering”

YEREVAN — Hundreds of people spent their third consecutive night in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Monday as Armenia’s main opposition force, Armenian National Congress (ANC), continued its nonstop street protests aimed at clinching more concessions from the government. According to ANC representatives it will end up only by early elections.
According to Vladimir Karapetian, a leading representative of the opposition alliance, this rally is the logical continuation of their struggle.
“We were constantly insisting that early elections will give an opportunity to put Armenia on the way of normal development. We had to take such steps because the authorities did not listen to us, and we do hope this time the 24-hour events will make the authorities show a more sensible approach,” Karapetian stated.
In scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, the tent camp built there on Friday by the Armenian National Congress expanded significantly. The number of tents pitched in the square facing Yerevan’s massive Opera House rose from about two dozen to almost 70 by Monday morning.
In a speech at the rally, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian said little about his bloc’s further actions and focused instead on renewed speculation about former President Robert Kocharian’s return to active politics — something which analysts believe is opposed both by the ANC and the current Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisian.
Ter-Petrosian dismissed Kocharian as a “spent force” who stands no chance of staging a successful political comeback. But he at the same time sought to reach out to the Prosperous Armenia Party, a junior partner in the governing coalition led by a businessman close to Kocharian.
Ter-Petrosian stated that unlike Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia Prosperous Armenia Party is a “real political party.”
Ter-Petrosian launched his campaign one week after issuing the Sarkisian administration with eight mostly political demands. Significantly, he said on September 23 that the ANC is ready to step back from the most important of those demands — the holding of early elections and major changes in Armenian electoral legislation — if the authorities agree to a “reasonable compromise” deal with his opposition movement.
But late on Monday, Armenia’s governing coalition indicated that it is undaunted by round-the-clock rallies staged by the Armenian National Congress and will not even negotiate with the opposition alliance until they are over.
Representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalition scoffed at the ANC’s stated readiness to resume a dialogue with the government which it suspended in late August in protest against the arrest of an opposition activist.
Members of a government team that negotiated with ANC representatives in July and August rejected to restart negotiation in a written statement issued after a two-hour meeting held in the Armenian parliament.
“We do not think that the illegal gathering held by the ANC will make a renewed dialogue productive,” they said. “We will wait until the end of that illegal process before discussing details of our meetings with ANC representatives.”

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