YEREVAN—Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian announced on Friday that he would end his hunger strike on Sunday, following Easter Services.
At a rally on Liberty Square on Friday, Hovannisian said after ending the hunger strike, he will focus on organizing the popular movement in anticipation of a huge gathering on April 9, the day when Serzh Sarkisian is scheduled to be sworn in as President.
Hovannisian said that after Holy Mass on Sunday, he will end his hunger strike “for faith, the fatherland, peace, and for the future,” and without taking time to recover, start preparing for April 9, together with all citizens of Armenia, Artsakh, and the diaspora.
Hovannisian started his hunger strike on March 10 in protest of massive election fraud during the February 18 presidential elections, which sparked a massive popular movement with him at the helm.
This comes following a week of intense communications between Hovannisian and President Serzh Sarkisian. On March 22, Hovannisian sent a letter to Sarkisian delineating his “final demands” and asking for a discussion of the post elections situation in Armenia.
Among the demands were holding of snap parliamentary elections, as well as what Hovannisian called a blueprint for “comprehensive power sharing.”
In a letter addressed to Hovannisian, Sarkisian on Monday advised the former to put an end to his hunger strike, and then discuss, “without shows,” the “raw” text proposed by Hovannisian.
Hovannisian’s text “will help in starting constructive dialogue,” said Sarkisian. “I am happy that you have expressed readiness to take oversight responsibilities worthy of a strong opposition, and in that issue it seems that we hold similar views. I am confident that if we start working together, with the same goal in mind, we can achieve results.”
Sarkisian concluded, “I advise you to stop your hunger strike, rest and recover for a couple of days, and we, paper and pen in hand, can start working—without shows—working seriously, accepting as basis the text—albeit very raw—that you yourself proposed.”
Hovannisian on Tuesday responded to the letter sent by Sarkisian expressing willingness to discuss the post-election situation in Armenia
In response to Sarkisian’s letter, Hovannisian refused to halt his strike, but expressed encouragement at Sarkisian’s willingness to further dialogue.
“Although, within the general context of the letter, there were questionable arguments and biased views, nevertheless, Your willingness to accept, as basis of discussion, the document I presented can be seen as progress,” said Hovannisian in his response. “I reaffirm my readiness to meet with and to discuss solutions to national issues that are now on the table at any time and in any format at Liberty Square,” wrote Hovannisian.
“Thank you for your concern about my health, but there is no need to worry, as I am in quite good health and need no recovery, and we can hold our working meeting without delay for the sake of a new constitutional Armenia,” he added.
“If for some reason you do not consider Liberty Square as a proper venue for a meeting, feel free to again present in writing your concrete proposals based on the fundamental points of my document that were absent in your previous message,” concluded Hovannisian.
The president’s spokesman Armen Arzumanyan issued a statement Wednesday, saying that Sarkisian’s proposal of March 25 to opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian remained in force
The presidential spokesman on Wednesday said that Sarkisian has “always been very patient and constructive in his steps.”
“The President’s meetings are organized in accordance with a planned schedule and take place at the President’s Office,” Arzumanyan added.
During an open-air press conference on Wednesday Hovannisian reiterated that the set of conditions on which he would agree to recognize Sarkisian’s “de-facto presidency” were an integral proposal and that if any of the conditions were to be rejected, another one equivalent to it should be suggested, reported RFE/RL.
“This is the lowest threshold around which negotiations can be conducted,” said Hovannisian, insisting that he wasn’t seeking any sort of coalition with the Sarkisian government or bargaining with the authorities over posts, but was trying to find a ‘complex solution’ to the current conundrum.