By Karine Kalantarian
Orinats Yerkir, one of Armenia’s three governing parties, incorporated a smaller pro-establishment party into its ranks on Saturday, expanding the support base of its ambitious leader, parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian.
The People’s Democratic Party (ZhDK) of Gagik Aslanian, a former parliament vice-speaker, formally disbanded itself to merge with Orinats Yerkir at an extraordinary conference in Yerevan that followed weeks of negotiations. The move came amid reports that Aslanian, who failed to win any parliament seats in the May 25 elections, has been promised one of the posts of deputy minister which Orinats Yerkir will get as a result of a power-sharing arrangement with its two coalition partners.
However, both party leaders insisted that they decided to join forces because of sharing ideological similarities, saying that they have a “centrist” orientation and a “reform” agenda. “We are fulfilling the people’s demand,” Baghdasarian told the gathering. “The people demand party consolidation.”
“Both parties are guided by the need to bring about reforms stemming from the interests of the country and the people,” Aslanian said for his part. He claimed that the merger talks began a year ago and intensified after the May elections which the ZhDK contested in an alliance with another small party supporting President Robert Kocharian.
The party, called Dignified Future, is sponsored by Armen Darpinian, a former prime minister. Sources said it may soon follow the ZhDK’s example and join Orinats Yerkir which has the second largest faction in the National Assembly.
The ZhDK was set up in September 2001 by a group of politicians that quit Stepan Demirchian’s opposition People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) in protest against its toughening anti-Kocharian stance.
Baghdasarian did not deny that Aslanian will soon get a senior government job. “If we act like a single party, we must utilize our joint human resources,” he told reporters.