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By Margarit Yesayan

The leadership struggle in the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) intensified late Tuesday when one of its veteran members, Hrant Voskanian, was dismissed as head of the Communist faction in the parliament. The HKK Bureau also decided to remove Voskanian from its ranks, the second such expulsion in recent weeks.

The Bureau did not provide any explanation of the move which analysts see as part of a deepening dispute between hardline and moderate wings of the party. The hardliners led by HKK First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian advocate a firm stance on the two key Communist objectives: restoration of a Russian-dominated union of ex-Soviet states and return to a state-run economy.

One of the two expelled leaders, Yuri Manukian, enraged many Communists last month after he defended the authorities’ opposition to Armenia’s membership of the Russia-Belarus union and efforts to develop ties with the West. Manukian used to run the party’s Yerevan branch.

Speaking at a joint news conference on Wednesday, Manukian and Voskanian condemned the latest Bureau decisions, saying that they will demand an emergency party congress to try to elect a new HKK leadership. Voskanian said only the majority of Communist members of the parliament can replace their leader.

The two men appear to enjoy the support of the Communist organization in Yerevan which has defied a central committee order to appoint Darpinian as its acting head.
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