President Serzh Sargsyan has called on his main opposition rival to engage in real dialogue to end what has been a post-election standoff in Armenia in recent weeks.
Raffi Hovannisian, a defeated opposition candidate in last month’s presidential elections, refuses to recognize Sargsyan’s victory, insisting that he resign before Inauguration Day, April 9. He is conducting a hunger strike in a central Yerevan square, warning that Sargsyan’s swearing in for a second five-year term will only happen over his, Hovannisian’s, ‘dead body’.
Answering questions during a Monday evening press conference attended by representatives of television companies Sargsyan said he would not visit Hovannisian to discuss politics, but if he did, his only purpose would be to urge him to end his hunger strike.
“I strongly believe that by going on a hunger strike Hovannisian has taken processes out of the political domain. What should I be negotiating about with an embittered man who hasn’t eaten anything for eight days?” said the president, answering a question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
“If I went there it would only be with one purpose – to once again call on him and ask him to end his hunger strike and choose other forms of struggle… And I am doing it now. Raffi Hovannisian, please, end it,” Sargsyan added.
Earlier, Hovannisian called for a “complex” solution from Sargsyan to what he described as an “all-state” problem, which he implied could also include early parliamentary elections to be held immediately and on an all-party list basis – something that Sargsyan reportedly rejected on February 21 when the two leaders met at the presidential compound.
In the extensive interview last night Sargsyan dismissed the assumption that there is a mass protest against the election outcome in Armenia today. He stressed that only about 3,000 people gather in Yerevan’s Liberty Square to support Hovannisian’s claims, which represents 0.1 percent of Armenia’s population. For comparison, he reminded of the 2008 post-election rallies attended by some 30,000 people. “Back then it was at least 10 percent,” he said.
Sargsyan also confirmed that he had made an offer to Hovannisian to become head of a council to work out a constitutional reform, but the oppositionist rejected his offer.
“All I hear from him is arrogant phrases seasoned with obscenities. If a concrete proposal is voiced, I will give concrete answers. A man cannot have a dialogue alone,” underscored Sargsyan.