By Hrach Melkumian
Levon Ter-Petrosian, Armenia’s reclusive former president, demonstrated on Saturday his strong support for the first major attempt to reunite his divided loyalists with a rare public appearance. But he gave no further indication of his possible return to politics.
Ter-Petrosian paid an unexpected visit to the headquarters of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), the former ruling party of which he is the unofficial leader, after it formally merged with another party led by one of his longtime allies. David Shahnazarian’s small 21st Century party decided to disband itself and join the HHSh earlier this year.
Shahnazarian was Armenia’s national security minister in 1994-95 and held other key posts in Ter-Petrosian’s administration before quitting the HHSh in 1996. His decision to restore links with the latter is the first result of recent efforts to reunite political groups that ruled Armenia from 1990 through 1998.
Ter-Petrosian was said to have actively encouraged the process. His visit to the HHSh office effectively confirmed that. The 57-year-old former president smiled and looked satisfied as he congratulated Shahnazarian and HHSh chairman Aleksandr Arzumanian with a glass of champagne.
“How did it proceed?” he asked them at a reception that followed their conference. “Everything was fine,” Arzumanian replied before the three men left for a separate meeting.
Ter-Petrosian, who has had virtually no contacts with the media since his resignation four years ago, again refused to answer reporters’ questions. HHSh officials also declined to comment on his political plans. The lack of first-hand information will continue to fuel conflicting speculations in the Armenian press about whether he will stand in next year’s presidential elections.
At the moment Ter-Petrosian appears to be more preoccupied with the reunification of about a dozen parties supporting him. They all say they are ready to join forces for the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2003 but have not yet agreed on what form their alliances should take. The HHSh wants it to be a single party, while several smaller groups, which have split for the HHSh in the past, favor the creation of an electoral bloc.
“I am sure that other supporters of us will follow the 21st Century’s example,” Arzumanian said.
Arzumanian, who was Armenia’s foreign minister in 1996-98, refused to comment on his mysterious beating earlier this week at the hands of security guards at a Yerevan café. Arzumanian and another senior HHSh member were severely injured in the brawl. One of the guards has claimed that they both were drunk.