By Armen Zakarian
Paruyr Hayrikian, a veteran Armenian politician and former Soviet dissident, renewed on Wednesday verbal attacks on President Robert Kocharian, saying that he is leading the country astray. Hayrikian, who held senior posts in the president administration until recently, also subjected to scathing criticism political parties supporting Kocharian’s reelection bid.
“Acting like concubines, they set no conditions [for their support to Kocharian],” he charged. “What they are telling him is, ‘We are your concubines, do us whatever you wish’.”
Kocharian’s reelection plans have been endorsed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Orinats Yerkir and scores of smaller parties not represented in the Armenian parliament.
Hayrikian’s Self-Determination Union (IM) party also followed a pro-presidential line in the past. But Hayrikian drastically changed its course last autumn, several months after resigning as chairman of a presidential commission on human rights.
His intensifying criticism of Armenia’s current leadership centered Wednesday on their foreign policy which he said is not assertive enough. “It would be crazy for me to support Kocharian because I’m a better presidential candidate than he is,” Hayrikian told a news conference.
The former pro-independence dissident, who had spent a total of 17 years in Soviet jails, has contested all three presidential elections held in Armenia since 1991. During the last presidential elections held in 1998, Hayrikian got 5 percent of the vote before endorsing Kocharian in the second round of voting. He is now one of 15 candidates nominated for the next presidential ballot scheduled for February 19.
Hayrikian indicated that he may well pull out of the race unless he rallies an opposition coalition around his presidential bid. He said candidates “without a [multi-party] team” will stand no chance of winning the vote.