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By Armen Zakarian

A leader of the governing Republican Party (HHK) reacted sharply Saturday to growing criticism voiced by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other major parties supporting President Robert Kocharian, in a further sign of a deepening rift inside the presidential camp.

Galust Sahakian, who heads the HHK faction in the parliament, said they are increasingly jealous about the growing influence of the Republicans which came to light in the run-up to Sunday’s local elections.

“Those forces are well aware that Republicans’ standing and electoral chances are on the rise, and are trying to somehow damage our party,” Sahakian told RFE/RL in an interview.

He was primarily responding to recent verbal attacks from Dashnaktsutyun leader Vahan Hovannisian who accused the HHK of trying to manipulate the elections. Hovannisian said this week that the Republicans should not lay claim to the status of the main governing party in Armenia. He also indicated that Dashnaktsutyun is in government because it supports Kocharian, not the HHK and its chairman, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.

But according to the Sahakian, Hovannisian’s arguments are “devoid of political logic” because the Dashnaks are represented in Markarian’s cabinet with two ministers. He also indirectly attacked another major pro-Kocharian party, Orinats Yerkir.

Sunday’s polls will likely allow Markarian and his allies to expand their already pervasive control of local governments and boost their significance in the eyes of Kocharian. Some commentators believe that Kocharian will therefore rely more heavily on the Republicans in his bid to win the presidential elections of next February. But in doing so, he will risk alienating other loyalist parties.
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