The National Accord bloc of five opposition parties yesterday resumed street protests with a rally in central Yerevan and declared its intention to continue such rallies on a regular basis. Dashnaksutiun leader Ruben Hakopian announced that the five parties plan to join with a wide array of other groups in a National Front aimed at pressuring the government into democratizing political life. Also yesterday, President Levon Ter-Petrosian took over the office of prime minister "for two or three weeks" from Armen Sarksian, who has barely served three months in that post and is now convalescing in London after what is described as larynx surgery. Ter-Petrosian told yesterday’s session of the parliament that Armenia must brace for "growing international pressures" in connection with the Karabakh problem. (Interfax, Noyan-Tapan, February 18)
On a U.S. visit last month, Sarksian had raised expectations at home by making sweeping promises of imminent democratization, possibly including new and fair parliamentary elections. It never was clear whether or not Ter-Petrosian had authorized Sarksian’s promises; in any case, nothing has come of them. Tentative talks between government and opposition have led nowhere and the opposition parties continue to face significant restrictions. Two show trials of opposition members have also continued, and a third trial — that of participants in last September’s disturbances — has begun. There is a widespread sentiment in Armenia that the country’s regress from democracy is undermining its international standing and its leverage with regard to the Karabakh problem.
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