YEREVAN (ArmInfo)—The head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Parliamentary Bloc Vahan Hovanessian Wednesday reiterated the party’s strong support for granting amnesty to opposition forces who were jailed following last year’s post-election unrest.
He told the ArmInfo news agency that ARF Supreme Council of Armenia chairman Armen Rustamian has, on several occasions, emphasized the imperative for amnesty. Hovanessian, who is also a member of the ARF’s governing Bureau, also said that he personally has discussed the matter with President Serzh Sarkisian and presented the ARF’s position.
“The current process regarding amnesty should have begun months ago,” said Hovanessian, adding that the president should discuss the issue with all political forces—coalition and opposition—before making a decision.
Hovanessian also discussed recent statement by leaders of the Levon Ter-Petrosian-led opposition Armenian National Congress calling for ARF to join forces with its efforts.
“We are a national party, and we have expressed our disagreements with the authorities over national issues,” he said.
“We need to ascertain the Heritage party’s and the Armenian National Congress’ positions on national issues before we can think about political cooperation,” added Hovanessian. “The Armenian National Congress’ position is not to our liking, and it is a bit unclear to us on what issues we are being offered to hold consultations.”
The ARF leader clarified that his party did not believe that cooperation with non-parliamentary forces would be beneficial explaining that after leaving the coalition it had discussed possible coordination of positions with the Heritage party, which is represented in Parliament.
President Serzh Sarkisian said on May 28 that he will declare an amnesty for dozens of imprisoned opposition members only if Armenia’s leading political groups prove that there is strong public support for such a move. But No amnesty has yet been granted.
Calls to release the jailed oppositionists first came last July, when lawmakers from the ARF warned the Sarkisian administration that a failure to grant a swift amnesty would deal a devastating blow to Armenians international image and hurt chances for defusing the lingering political tensions in the country.
The ARF, which left Sarkisian’s coalition government in April over his conciliatory policy toward Turkey, had repeatedly urged Sarkisian to issue the general amnesty to prevent a possible political and social crisis from erupting in Armenia.
Under the Armenian constitution, an amnesty can be initiated only by the president of the republic and needs to be approved by the National Assembly. The latter is dominated by Sarkisian’s allies.