By Emil Danielyan
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) put new question marks over the future of the governing Miasnutyun alliance on Saturday, launching scathing attacks on their increasingly estranged allies from the People’s Party (HZhK) and the Yerkrapah Union. Markarian said his one-year prime ministership, which the Republicans view as a success, has been dogged by the danger of “strikes from behind our back.” In a keynote address to the HHK congress, he charged that Miasnutyun factions unhappy with the government’s reluctance to challenge President Robert Kocharian are primarily concerned with their parochial interests.
The speech visibly infuriated HZhK leaders and some prominent members of Yerkrapah who renewed their allegations that the current Republican leadership has diverted from Miasnutyun’s goals and program. They promptly left the congress immediately after the premier’s speech.
“We are now even more convinced that we did a right thing by leaving the Republican Party,” Albert Bazeyan, a former senior Republican who now leads the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, told reporters after the walkout. “The HHK is not guided by the Miasnutyun program, it just executes President Kocharian’s will.”
Stepan Demirchian, the seemingly exasperated HZhK leader, refused to comment as he walked out of the conference hall in the government building in Yerevan. The HZhK has been critical of the government since Markarian’s appointment as prime minister a year ago, repeatedly raising the prospect of a Miasnutyun collapse. Its recent congress revealed a growing anti-government sentiment.
The HZhK and Hanrapetutyun were particularly angered by Markarian’s reference to “internal enemies” conspiring against his cabinet. The premier clarified later that he did not refer to a particular political group.
“Nobody says where that diversion [from the Miasnutyun platform] has taken place, what has turned sour and what we have failed to do,” Markarian complained in his speech. “Failure to see positive changes is a consistent political line, and not the result of misunderstanding.” He said unnamed “forces and individuals who wished to see instability in the country” after the 1999 parliament shootings can not forgive the Republicans their decision to cooperate with Kocharian.
“They would have cheered the Republican Party if it had spoiled its relations with the president of the republic and turned against him…But I’m sorry, gentlemen. Your ambitions and appetite for solving your personal issues is nowhere near enough for winning over the Republican Party.”
Markarian was named prime minister in May 2000, shortly after Kocharian sacked his Republican predecessor Aram Sarkisian after months of turmoil and infighting in the country’s leadership. The move, disapproved by the HZhK and Yerkrapah, opened first cracks in Miasnutyun.
Tigran Torosian, deputy speaker of the parliament and a leading HHK member, said the party was “left alone” to bear the burden of running the government. “We haven’t always felt the support of our allies behind our back,” Markarian agreed, adding that his cabinet has succeeded in putting the Armenian economy back on growth track.
Markarian also condemned his opponents’ perceived attempts to exploit the ongoing investigation into the parliament shootings and dismissed their continuing suspicion on Kocharian’s involvement in the killings. “Talking loudly about pain and shouting as much abuse at the criminals as possible is not a sign of concern, indignation and soft-heartedness,” he said.
The premier struck a more conciliatory note later in the day, telling reporters that the Republicans are committed to preserving their alliance with the HZhK. “We do not intend to break up Miasnutyun, we will try to reach a common ground through compromise,” he said.
The Republicans hold only 25 seats in the 131-member parliament and need the support of other parties to push government initiatives through the National Assembly.
In a resolution adopted by the congress, they vowed to embark on a “radical reform” of the government system in Armenia, maintain “political stability” and step up their declared crackdown on corruption. Torosian, in particular, admitted that corruption is “stifling” the country.