By Karine Kalantarian
A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) announced on Friday that the influential party might put forward its own presidential candidate, signalling that President Robert Kocharian should not take its support for granted.
Hrant Markarian, who is a senior member of the left-wing nationalist party’s governing bureau, again stopped short of endorsing Kocharian’s reelection bid, arguing that Dashnaktsutyun is still mulling its participation in next year’s presidential elections.
“Dashnaktsutyun may come up with its own candidate,” Markarian told reporters. “Nothing should be ruled out.”
Dashnaktsutyun has been a key pro-presidential force since 1998 since Kocharian lifted a controversial ban on its activities in Armenia imposed by his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosian, in 1994. It currently controls two ministerial posts in the government and aspires to an even greater political role.
Other presidential loyalists, including Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), are reportedly worried about that prospect. Distrust between Dashnaktsutyun and the HHK deepened earlier this month when the Republicans unilaterally pushed through the parliament controversial amendments to Armenia’s electoral legislation.
Some observers believe that a rift between his two major support bases could put Kocharian in a difficult position ahead of the elections.
Hrant Markarian made the comments on the sidelines of a seminar of leftist political forces in Yerevan during which the current Dashnaktsutyun leadership’s pro-Kocharian stance came under attack from some of the party’s members. A veteran party figure, Eduard Hovannisian, said Dashnaktsutyun must either secure greater representation in the government or join the opposition.
“We can’t do anything when power is not in our hands,” Hovannisian said in a speech.
Another party activist, historian Ashot Sarukhanian, was more outspoken in his criticism of the Markarian-led Dashnak bureau. “We are now keeping quiet and are not in opposition,” he said disapprovingly. “But what are we now? Why did we enter this parliament? Why do we support Kocharian’s regime?”