President Armen Sarkissian on Saturday called for an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect in the country, while warning that the Armenian government cannot act in the spirit of the 2018 public mindset, given the post-war realities in Armenia.
Sarkissian’s remarks seemed to be a direct response to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who minutes before concluded an address to the nation on Facebook Live, where he once again criticized the opposition, which is demanding his resignation after he signed the November 9 agreement that ended the war but saw Armenia making major territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
In his remarks Saturday, Pashinyan stressed that Armenia’s last parliamentary elections, held in December 2018, when his My Step bloc won a clear majority, were widely recognized as democratic. In an apparent reference to the opposition forces, which are calling for the creation of a “national accord” government and nominated Vazgen Manukyan as their candidate, Pashinyan said that “some circles” want to come to power through a fraudulent vote.
Sarkissian, who has himself endorsed the concept a “national accord” body and has pushed for snap elections with the current government’s resignation, said Saturday that Armenia is in a “deep post-war crisis,” adding that the government could not act within the 2018 public mindset since “today’s reality is completely different.”
The dueling messages from Sarkissian and Pashinyan came hours before a scheduled opposition-organized rally, which drew thousands to Yerevan’s Freedom Square, where among other representatives, Manukyan, the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, addressed the public.
“Today our state and our public are in a deep post-war crisis. This has to be said without any hesitation, without deceiving ourselves, and, at the same time, without despair. We must fully comprehend and accept the existence of this crisis and do everything we can to overcome it, together, hand in hand,” said Sarkissian in his written message.
“Regardless of the positions we hold, our political beliefs and views, our personal likes and dislikes, we must think about the future of our state, our country and our people,” said the president. “Each of us has the right to express our opinions, dissatisfaction and demand an explanation from the authorities for the enormous human and territorial losses caused by the war.”
In emphasizing the need for an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect, the president’s appeal to the nation was to ensure that their actions were in accordance to the rule of law.
He also appealed to law enforcement bodies, which in the past weeks have brutally arrested opposition protesters, saying while maintaining law and order is important, they must remember that “the person in front of you—in the streets of Yerevan—is our compatriot, one of us, man or women, young or old. Among them are people who a few days ago defended the homeland, each of us, you.”
“Any violence, disproportionate use of force and measures are inadmissible and unacceptable. In your actions you must show responsibility and the highest professionalism and humanity,” added Sarkissian to his appeal to law enforcement.
“Today we need groundbreaking decisions. Any solution must receive national consent. We must be able to restore the atmosphere of tolerance, mutual respect, to bring together all the positive and vital qualities of our people, to turn them into a collective force, which will be the guarantor of our future success. The activities of the President and institution of the president are aimed at that very goal,” said Sarkissian.