DECISION 2013: OPPOSITION LEADER DEFIES POLITICAL EUROPE OVER ARMENIAN ELECTION STANCE
VOTE 2013 | 18.03.13 | 14:49
By NAIRA HAYRUMYAN
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian, who is challenging the
official outcome of last month’s presidential election in Armenia,
is threatening the European People’s Party (EPP) with a political
scandal unless it disavows its chairman’s stance on the Armenian vote.
Hovannisian, whose Heritage party is also associated with the EPP, says
it will consider withdrawing if EPP president Wilfred Martens’ plaudits
to President Serzh Sargsyan and recognition of his disputed victory
becomes an institutionalized position of the European-level party.
In 2012, Heritage, together with Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party
and its junior coalition partner, Orinats Yerkir, acquired observer
member statuses at the EPP as center-right parties.
Sargsyan went on to win the 2013 presidential election with an official
vote tally of 58 percent, while Hovannisian officially finished
second in the race with 37 percent. The Heritage party leader,
however, claimed massive fraud in the election and began street
protests on February 20, also unsuccessfully seeking to invalidate
the election outcome through the Constitutional Court. But before
that Martens already congratulated the incumbent Armenian leader
on his victory. Hovannisian also accused Martens of carrying out
“propaganda” for Sargsyan even before the February 18 election.
Moreover, after his re-election Sargsyan visited Brussels where he
also met with Martens on the sidelines of an EPP summit. According
to official sources, during his visit on March 14 Sargsyan had no
meetings with other European leaders apart from the EPP president.
At the summit in Brussels, Sargsyan stressed Armenia’s continued
effort for European integration, calling it a foreign policy
imperative. Meanwhile, Martens named Sargsyan a legitimately elected
president, which angered Hovannisian, who has been on a hunger strike
in Yerevan since March 10.
Speaking at a rally of his supporters last Friday, Hovannisian sharply
criticized the EPP head for his stance, as well as those world leaders
who have recognized Sargsyan’s victory despite what he described as
obvious fraud in the election. He said this is killing democracy in
Armenia. “If this is Europe, then we don’t need that… Let no one
teach us lessons in democracy, because we are a democracy,” said the
Armenian opposition leader.
If Heritage withdraws from the EPP, it may trigger a real scandal
for the largest European party, especially if the opposition movement
gains momentum in Armenia in time for Sargsyan’s inauguration scheduled
for April 9, when large demonstrations are planned in capital Yerevan.