By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Two senior members of the Yerkrapah Union increasingly critical of the Armenian government have been expelled from Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), party officials said on Friday.
The two men, Miasnik Malkhasian and Sasun Mikaelian, are senior members of the Hayastan parliamentary group comprising lawmakers affiliated with Yerkrapah, the former unofficial wing of the HHK. They all left the Republican faction last year in protest against Markarian’s deepening ties with President Robert Kocharian.
But unlike their more radical colleagues, Malkhasian and Mikaelian retained their membership of the governing party. They both shrugged off their ouster on Friday.
“I didn’t quite consider myself a member of that party after October 27,” Malkhasian told RFE/RL, referring to the 1999 massacre in the parliament.
The then prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian, the charismatic founder of Yerkrapah and the HHK, was among eight officials killed in the attack. Many Yerkrapah members still suspect Kocharian of having orchestrated the bloodbath.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Republican faction in the National Assembly, argued that Malkhasian’s and Mikaelian’s decision to form a new parliamentary group was a direct challenge to the party. “They placed themselves outside the party long ago,” he argued.
Premier Markarian and other Republican leaders were particularly angered by Hayastan’s decision to vote against the government budget late last month. Most members of the group and many other Yerkrapahs are also affiliated with the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party led by former prime minister Aram Sarkisian.
Malkhasian said he has no plans to join Hanrapetutyun any time soon.