By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s three largest pro-establishment parties, which will dominate its new parliament, appear to have failed to reach agreement so far on forming what President Robert Kocharian hopes will be a coalition government.
The Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir party have been bargaining behind the scenes over the distribution of senior government and parliament posts amid conflicting press reports about the outcome of the talks.
A leader of Dashnaktsutyun, Vahan Hovannisian, complained on Wednesday that the HHK is reluctant to share power with the two other parties, indicating major disagreements hampering a post-election deal.
“The president speaks of a coalition, whereas [the Republican Minister for Local Government] Hovik Abrahamian says that they have a majority in the National Assembly with 73 seats,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL. “If they have such an overwhelming majority why should they need a coalition?”
“If they see the coalition as something different, then they should give us a clear explanation,” he added.
Kocharian, who publicly floated the idea of a coalition on the eve of the May 25 elections, is thought to be personally involved in the ongoing consultations. He met on Tuesday with two other Dashnaktsutyun leaders, Aghvan Vartanian and Armen Rustamian. No details of the discussion were reported.
Hovannisian also declined to describe the current status of the talks. In his words, Dashnaktsutyun believes that it should have the right to select and recall its government ministers at will and demands the “ouster” of some unnamed members of the current HHK-led cabinet of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Asked about possible distribution of ministerial posts, Hovannisian said the Dashnaks are particularly interested in setting up and running a new government agency tasked with fighting corruption.
Dashnaktsutyun is represented in the current ruling cabinet with Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian and Minister for Urban Development David Lokian. Their political future remains uncertain. The nationalist party has accused Markarian’s Republicans of falsifying the election results, but made it clear that it is ready to stay in government.
Dashnaktsutyun will hold over a dozen seats in the 131-member parliament, against at least 34 seats won by the HHK and 20 by Orinats Yerkir. Newspapers have reported this week that Orinats Yerkir will be rewarded with senior posts in the executive and legislative branches having the second largest faction in the new National Assembly. The pro-Kocharian party declined a comment.
There is also mounting speculation that the opposition National Unity party of Artashes Geghamian might also get senior government jobs. Geghamian has denied receiving any such offers though.
Meanwhile, a leading member of the HHK and a deputy speaker of the outgoing parliament, Tigran Torosian, implied on Wednesday that the three-party negotiations are not on the right track. Torosian argued that their participants should have started the process by agreeing a common plan of government action. The talks have amounted instead to “who will get how many ministerial posts,” he said.
“Right from the beginning, some people who have nothing to do with those negotiations started giving names and putting various options into circulation,” Torosian told RFE/RL without elaborating.