By Shakeh Avoyan
The bitter struggle for the leadership of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) appeared to come to an end on Saturday when the parliamentary party’s pro-government wing decided to formalize its break with AZhM chairman Vazgen Manukian and set up its own organization.
Manukian’s rivals gave up further attempts to win control of the once strongest opposition force in Armenia, choosing instead to split from it with their supporters. One of them, Seyran Avakian, argued that continued struggle for the AZhM’s name would entail a lengthy court action with a highly uncertain outcome.
The decision, which marked a third split in the center-right party this year, was made at a conference of the pro-government faction. It had earlier sought to present the gathering, branded as “illegal” by Manukian, as an emergency congress of the AZhM.
Manukian, who headed Armenia’s first post-Communist government in 1990-91, welcomed the move as “the only right way.” “This is a much better option for them than pretending that they are the AZhM and fighting for its name,” he told RFE/RL. He claimed that despite the three successive splits the party’s “main core” has remained loyal to him.
The long simmering differences between the two wings flared up into an overt confrontation in July when several AZhM leaders advocating closer cooperation with President Robert Kocharian moved to abolish the post of party chairman. Manukian’s supporters allege that the revolt was actively encouraged by some senior government officials, including David Vartanian, the minister for state property and a veteran AZhM member. But Vartanian has denied any involvement in the turmoil. He did not attend Saturday’s gathering.
The latest rift means the effective demise of the four-member AZhM faction in the parliament, making Manukian the only lawmaker affiliated with the party.