By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Communist Party (HKK), a major political force, is going through yet another rift that could seriously damage its chances in next month’s parliamentary elections.
Several prominent Communists strongly opposed to President Robert Kocharian have staged a revolt against the HKK leadership which they accuse of secretly cooperating with the ruling regime. The dissenters, among them three parliament deputies, were sidelined at a recent plenum of the party’s Central Committee that all but ruled out the possibility of their reelection to the parliament.
One of them, Gagik Tadevosian, has already quit the party and is now figures prominently in the electoral list of another major opposition group, Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity.
The HKK first secretary, Vladimir Darpinian, indicated on Monday that the remaining dissenters may be expelled from the party. He said the HKK’s governing Bureau will discuss the matter “very soon.”
The rebellious Communists, meanwhile, have leaked to the media scandalous details of the Central Committee plenum during which they say Darpinian admitted receiving financial contributions from Serzh Sarkisian, the powerful defense minister and close Kocharian confidante. According to Norik Petrosian and Khoren Sargsian, veteran Communist lawmakers, Darpinian told committee members that he has no other way of supporting the party’s activities and the upcoming election campaign in particular.
“The party must clean up,” Sargsian said.
Darpinian strongly denies the claims. “We have nothing to do with Serzh Sarkisian,” he told RFE/RL. “Reports that Serzh Sarkisian is financing or sponsoring our party do not correspond to reality.”
The Communist leadership, which is very critical of the current Armenian authorities in public, has long been suspected of maintaining secret ties with them. Those suspicions were reinforced by the HKK’s equivocal position on the recent presidential elections. The staunchly pro-Russian party, which has undergone several major splits in recent years, supported Geghamian until the February 19 first round of voting and at one point endorsed Stepan Demirchian, another opposition leader who took on Kocharian in the March 5 run-off.
The Communists then suddenly withdrew the endorsement, telling their supporters not to vote for any of the two remaining candidates. Some Armenian newspapers reported that the change of heart came after Darpinian’s confidential meeting with defense chief Sarkisian.
The Communist dissenters, by contrast, have openly sided with Demirchian and are now seeking his support for their efforts to win parliament seats in individual constituencies.