By Karine Kalantarian
Two political groups that split from the National Democratic Union (AZhM) earlier this year signalled on Saturday their readiness to restore ties with the influential party led by former prime minister Vazgen Manukian.
The two parties welcomed the recent split in the AZhM that led to the ouster of its pro-government wing. Their representatives attending an AZhM congress reacted positively to Manukian’s intentions to form an opposition bloc before the 2003 elections.
In his speech to the congress delegates, Manukian said his party, weakened by a series of rifts, remains in opposition to the current authorities but will not engage in radical forms of political activity against them. He said he wants the AZhM to be the driving force of a new opposition alliance.
“We don’t want to change the country’s leadership by demonstrations and impeachment initiatives,” Manukian declared. “What we want to do at the moment is to rally our supporters around us.”
The main points of the speech were welcomed by leaders of the two splinter groups which had quit the AZhM in protest against its softening stance against President Robert Kocharian. “I hope that the AZhM will return to its traditional values after this congress,” said Arshak Sadoyan of the National Democratic Alliance.
But a senior member of the other group, the National Democratic Party, warned that the AZhM should not try to dominate the new opposition alliance. “I don’t think that it should be the leading force in that bloc,” Vartan Poghosian told RFE/RL.
Manukian acknowledged that the AZhM, once most popular opposition force in Armenia, has made serious mistakes over the past several years and should only blame itself for its misfortunes. He said in particular that the party should shave forged an alliance the People’s Party (HZhK) of the late Karen Demirchian in the run-up to the 1999 parliamentary elections.
The HZhK’s Miasnutyun (Unity) alliance with the Republican Party, led by Vazgen Sarkisian at the time, won the polls, capitalizing on Demirchian’s popularity.