By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential party represented in Armenia’s government, has yet to decide whether to support President Robert Kocharian in next year’s presidential elections, a senior party official said on Saturday.
Aghvan Vartanian, who leads Dashnaktsutyun’s parliament faction, said the decision to endorse Kocharian’s reelection plans or to back another candidate will be taken “this fall.”
Dashnaktsutyun, which has branches in all major Armenian Diaspora communities, has been a leading pro-presidential force ever since Kocharian lifted a controversial ban on its activities in Armenia in February 1998. The nationalist party controls two ministries in Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s cabinet, owing to its close links with Kocharian.
Local observers believe that it is likely to stand by the incumbent president during the elections due in March 2003.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Yerevan, Vartanian sought to defend Kocharian against widespread criticism for the existing state of affairs in Armenia. He acknowledged that the country’s political system remains deeply flawed and corruption and poverty widespread under Kocharian, but said the president is doing his best to address the problems.
“The president is guilty,” Vartanian said. “But it is wrong and naïve to think that he can resolve all those problems in one day.”