By Hrach Melkumian
Seven left-wing opposition parties held the founding congress of their Socialist Armenia alliance on Thursday, describing the event as the start of their joint preparations for next year’s elections.
“We are prepared to shoulder responsibility for governing the state through the establishment of democratic socialism,” said one of its leaders, Aram Sarkisian. “We do not hide the fact that we are going to participate in the elections to realize our program.”
Sarkisian, who is chairman of the small Democratic Party of Armenia, said the parties making up the bloc share a common ideology which calls for greater state intervention in the economy and closer ties with Russia.
Another Socialist Armenia leader, Ashot Manucharian, has long campaigned for Armenia’s accession to the Russia-Belarus union and is a bitter critic of Yerevan’s perceived pro-Western foreign policy.
Some of the bloc’s parties backed President Robert Kocharian during the presidential elections of 1998. But they were on Thursday unanimous in demanding the Armenian leader’s resignation and a pre-term presidential vote.
Sarkisian, who was a presidential adviser on foreign affairs in 1998-99, charged that the Kocharian administration has proved to be “bankrupt” and must be replaced by a left-wing force.
Socialist Armenia’s chances of mounting a serious challenge against the authorities were dealt a severe blow on January 30 when the Armenian Communist Party (HKK), one of the largest in the country, announced that it will not join the bloc. The party’s first secretary, Vladimir Darpinian, was among the politicians who first announced Socialist Armenia’s creation on December 26. According to some speculations, Manucharian’s presence in the bloc was the main reason for the HKK’s unexpected pullout.