By Hrach Melkumian
The hardline leadership of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) secured an important endorsement of its recent controversial decisions from the party’s Central Committee on Saturday in a further blow to the HKK’s moderate wing. Meeting behind the closed doors, the committee approved the ouster of two prominent Communists, Hrant Voskanian and Yuri Manukian, from their posts.
Voskanian was until now the leader of the HKK’s faction in the parliament, while Manukian headed its Yerevan branch. The two men advocate a softer line on what the Communists regard as “anti-popular” and “pro-Western” authorities. Manukian enraged many Communists in June when he defended the authorities’ opposition to Armenia’s membership of the Russia-Belarus union and efforts to develop ties with the West.
“Those who are diverging from the party line are subject to dismissal regardless of their position and background,” HKK First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian said after the Central Committee plenum. “This is a political and not a personal issue.”
Voskanian, who was also present at the meeting, declined a comment. Participants said he was booed and jeered by Darpinian’s supporters and was unable to finish his speech. Manukian and Voskanian earlier condemned the Bureau decisions, saying that they will campaign for an emergency party congress to try to elect a new HKK leadership. But the support given by the Central Committee to Darpinian and his allies makes the success of their efforts virtually impossible.
One of the hardliners, deputy Khoren Sarkisian, accused the authorities of conspiring to split one of the main opposition groups in Armenia. He urged the party to launch a nationwide campaign for the ouster of President Robert Kocharian.