By Armen Zakarian
Leaders of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) met on Wednesday with President Robert Kocharian’s number one political opponent, Stepan Demirchian, to discuss their possible cooperation, it was announced on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), Ruzan Khachatrian, told reporters that Dashnaktsutyun, one of the three parties in the ruling coalition, is seeking opposition support for its forthcoming anti-corruption initiatives and its efforts to amend electoral legislation.
She said the Demirchian-led Artarutyun bloc, of which the HZhK is a key member, will support any initiative in parliament that is in line with its declared aim of turning Armenia into a democratic, rule-of-law state. She said Artarutyun shares, in particular, Dashnaktsutyun’s belief that the number of parliament seats contested under the system of proportional representation should be increased.
Currently 75 of the 131 seats in Armenia’s National Assembly are distributed on the party list basis. The remaining seats are reserved for deputies elected in individual single-mandate constituencies.
Khachatrian stressed at the same time that the Demirchian-led opposition will not soften its stance against Kocharian’s administration whose legitimacy it refuses to recognize. “Stepan Demirchian made it clear during the meeting that although the HZhK is ready to cooperate with any political force on various issues, we will never take part in schemes that might create some illusions,” she said.
Speaking at an HZhK conference last week, Demirchian reiterated opposition claims that he was the rightful winner of this year’s presidential election, official results of which gave Kocharian a second term in office. He said Artarutyun members’ participation in parliament sessions should not be seen as legitimizing the ruling regime.
Dashnaktsutyun has not yet explained its decision to seek the backing of Kocharian’s bitter foes. The pro-presidential party confirmed last month having differences with the more influential Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, questioning the latter’s commitment to combating endemic corruption. “We are ready to cooperate with both extra-parliamentary forces and the opposition,” a Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian, said on September 18.
Tensions inside the government camp have somewhat eased since the Republicans agreed earlier this month to cede more senior posts to Dashnaktsutyun and their second coalition partner, the Orinats Yerkir Party. The two parties have been seeking greater presence in the executive.
The significance of the new posts to be given to them was downplayed on Thursday by another prominent opposition figure, Albert Bazeyan. Bazeyan argued that Kocharian and his most trusted lieutenant, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, will continue to control most of the power reins in Armenia, including law-enforcement agencies, the military, taxation and foreign affairs.
“The controlling share in our government is held by Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian,” he said.