Hovannisian on Hunger Strike


YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — Authorities have denied opposition leader and defeated presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian’s request to put up a tent in Liberty Square, where Hovannisian is on a hunger strike in protest of the February 18 presidential election outcome in which he finished second in the official ballot.

Hovannisian, founder of the Heritage party, started his strike Sunday, and has vowed to go without food until April 9 — inauguration day — unless President Serge Sargisian concedes to Hovannisian’s claim that he is the rightful winner.

Heritage Party Vice President Armen Martirosyan said that the second night of the hunger strike was peaceful despite the rainy weather at night in the capital.

Martirosyan submitted two petitions to the city hall asking for permission to put out a tent and an umbrella in Liberty Square, but the tent was refused.

“By some government decree the area adjacent to the Opera House has been recognized as cultural-historical heritage, and accordingly the asphalt at Liberty Square is historical-cultural heritage too. On that basis it is forbidden to put out a tent on it,” says Martirosyan, adding that although the city hall licensed the installation of an umbrella, now the police won’t let it.

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“The police have some measurement criteria on what’s considered to be rain, and what’s not. I guess they view it as rain, when, as people say, water is pouring from the sky like from buckets, and in all other cases it’s not rain, hence the drops don’t make anyone wet,” says Martirosyan.

Armenia’s first foreign minister, 53-year-old Hovannisian had similar issues two years ago during his other hunger strike when the police didn’t allow him to put out a tent. Hovannisian’s supporters installed one, but police removed it.

On Tuesday the opposition leader set limitations to his communication with the media and said he would meet the press once a day at 5 p.m.

Hovannisian has declined Sargisian’s invitation for a meeting to discuss the post-election developments, a spokesperson for the head of state told a news website.

“The head of the presidential staff called Mr. Hovannisian yesterday to convey the official invitation for a meeting. We regret to note that Mr. Hovannisian refused to meet [with the president] to discuss comprehensively all the existing questions,” Armen Arzumanyan told Panorama.am on Monday.

“We remain hopeful that Mr. Hovannisian has properly evaluated the situation and is sober enough to realize the threats of the de-facto rejection,” the spokesman added.

Speaking to media Hovannisian, denied receiving any invitation from the presidential administration. At the same time, he reiterated that he was ready to meet with the current head of state — like a man with a man — in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, where he is currently conducting his hunger strike, to discuss ways out of the current post-election crisis.

Hovannisian, who met with Sargisian at the presidential compound on February 21 but reported no progress made at the talks afterwards, made it clear on Sunday that he no longer was seeking a meeting with Sargisian or other officials in their offices, but was ready to meet them in the square.

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