By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian’s worse-than-expected performance in the recent presidential election resulted from his failure to ensure the rule of law and curb rampant corruption, one of his leading political allies said on Monday.
“He has really done a lot of things,” said Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party. “He has built, attracted investments and created jobs. But he couldn’t win in the first round [of the election] because during his first five-year term Kocharian failed to do what he had promised and what he should do in the next five years: to establish justice.”
Hovannisian, whose party has always supported the Armenian president, made the comments at a meeting with several hundred residents of Yerevan’s working class Shengavit district as part of the unfolding campaign for the May 25 parliamentary elections. He sought to persuade them that Kocharian will become more responsive to popular concerns if Dashnaktsutyun wins greater representation in Armenia’s leadership.
Kocharian, according to the Dashnaktsutyun leader, admitted shortly before the presidential election that his declared crackdowns on corruption had led nowhere. “Eradicating corruption is now becoming his main objective,” Hovannisian claimed.
The endemic corruption and favoritism are a major theme of the Armenian opposition’s discourse which strikes a chord with a considerable part of the electorate. Opposition leaders claim that Kocharian and his cronies themselves sponsor corrupt practices which are a major obstacle to the impoverished country’s development.
Hovannisian, who heads the outgoing Armenian parliament’s committee on defense and security, has long complained about the problem. Speaking at a seminar in Yerevan in May 2002, he declared that corruption in Armenia has been just as endemic under Kocharian as it had been under his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian, whom Dashnaktsutyun holds responsible for the country’s grave socioeconomic problems. Hovannisian, however, has avoided implicating specific government officials in illegal activities.