By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The pro-government wing of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) party stepped up its revolt against former prime minister Vazgen Manukian on Friday, dismissing him as the leader of the AZhM faction in the parliament. The move came ahead of Saturday’s crucial meeting of the party’s political council which could decide the outcome of the bitter infighting.
Three members of the four-member faction decided to change its chairman as part of their drive to abolish the post of AZhM chairman held by Manukian ever since the party’s creation in 1991. The challengers are believed to be pushing for even closer cooperation with the authorities, something to which Manukian is strongly opposed. Earlier this year they succeeded in driving pro-opposition activists out of the AZhM.
The ex-premier, who was a leading opposition candidate in the presidential elections of 1996 and 1998, is pinning his hopes on grass roots structures that are highly critical of President Robert Kocharian and the government.
The revolt is reportedly encouraged by Minister for State Property David Vartanian, another prominent member of the AZhM. But Vartanian on Friday denied any involvement in the turmoil. “I’m a poor rank-and-file member of the AZhM and don’t meddle in its internal affairs,” he told reporters.
One of Vartanian’s deputies, Mikael Melkumian, was on Thursday expelled from the AZhM by the party’s organization in central Yerevan loyal to Manukian.