By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Several former members of the opposition People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) led by the deputy speaker of the parliament, Gagik Aslanian, held on Thursday the founding conference of their new pro-government organization, the People’s Democratic Party (ZhDK). Aslanian and five other parliament deputies that quit the HZhK in July over its mounting criticism of the authorities said the group will follow a “centrist” and “statist” line.
“We want to serve as a bridge between the people and the authorities,” Aslanian told reporters.
The ZhDK’s board comprises several senior government officials, including the head of the government department of refugees and migration, Gagik Yeganian, and the deputy ministers of trade and industry and education.
Observers point to the absence of the most high-ranking HZhK defector, the controversial parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian. Some of them say the new party is deliberately distancing itself from Khachatrian despite sharing his reluctance to challenge the authorities.
But Aslanian denied speculation that the speaker was not allowed to join in. “So far he has not expressed a desire to join the party. If he wishes so, we will accept him,” he said.
Aslanian also said the six ZhDK deputies will not leave the parliament’s largest Miasnutyun faction which was until now made up of members of the HZhK and the governing Republican Party. Nine out of its 46 members are affiliated with the HZhK and have effectively severed their links with the Republicans.