Editorial: Ter-Petrosyan’s carpe diem should have included Hovannisian

The day was seized by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, but it belonged to Raffi Hovannisian.

When Ter-Petrosyan entered Liberty Square yesterday, he walked through a door cracked open because Hovannisian had the audacity to sit night and day on a park bench there.

That neither Ter-Petrosyan nor any of his compatriots publicly acknowledged Hovannisian during the opposition’s protest that turned into a victory rally, reveals the political pettiness that stymies a unified opposition and perhaps a personal shortcoming on Ter-Petrosyan’s part that is unbecoming of any public figure with aspirations of being the country’s top public servant.

Karabakh war hero and a leader of the Sardarapat movement, Jirair Sefilian told journalists Thursday: “The Armenian people owe today's victory to Raffi Hovannisian.

"In fact, with his actions he was the first to open the door through which people entered Liberty Square today."

The big man on hunger strike himself deflected praise. The regaining of the hallowed ground of Armenian insurrection was a victory achieved by the will of the people, Hovannisian said.

Ter-Petrosyan likewise acknowledged the remarkable shift in the makeup of the regime/opposition standoff as an achievement of the masses.

Still, the former president slighted his former foreign minister and missed an opportunity for dignity by neither acknowledging Hovanissian from the Opera House steps, nor approaching him as hundreds of others have done over the past three days, who recognize the significance of Hovannisian’s presence in the square (including those of us who question the efficacy of his hunger strike).

Let it also be said that while the opposition glories in the victory, it has awakened to a day that, recent history proves, could have been the lingering aftermath of bloodshed rather than the hangover of brief intoxication, had Serzh Sargsyan not chosen the praiseworthy path of restraint. (And you can be sure that withdrawing police was a presidential decision.)

There likely are those already saying that the president’s response was premeditated; that
the day played out as scripted. If so, what an odd strategy that would be – allowing your opposition the impressive public appearance of having stared down a show of government force.

Let us instead believe that, unlike his predecessor three years ago, Sargsyan has the civility to recognize legitimate public discontent, and understands the mandate of his office for tolerance. Let us even hope – those among us who aspire to see democratic process at work no matter which ideology prevails – that the president’s tolerance will extend to putting an end to his loyalists’ practice of hindering public movement on days when the opposition wishes to demonstrate.