By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian authorities re-registered on Friday the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, ending speculation that they may outlaw one of President Robert Kocharian’s most vocal opponents.
A Justice Ministry official told RFE/RL that Hanrapetutyun has become the 42nd party to win official registration in accordance with a new Armenian law on political organizations.
The opposition-sponsored law, enacted in November 2002, toughened regulations for the existence and activities of the 116 Armenian parties registered with the Justice Ministry under the previous legislation. They are now required to have at least 200 members and branches in at least one third of Armenia’s regions.
Only 59 of them have applied for the renewal of their legal status. Six of them, including one of the nine parties making up Armenia’s largest opposition alliance, were denied registration earlier this month. Ministry officials said the small Social Democrat Hnchakian Party, which was founded 116 years ago, failed to meet the new requirements.
However, Hnchakian and other members of the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc, including Hanrapetutyun, condemned the move as politically motivated. Some press reports said the same fate awaits the more influential Hanrapetutyun which is one of the most radical opposition groups in Armenia.
Speaking shortly before news of Hanrapetutyun’s registration was officially announced, the party’s chairman Albert Bazeyan said it will continue to exist and challenge the authorities with or without a legal status. “It doesn’t matter because everything will be revised under a new, legitimate government anyway,” he said.
Bazeyan was addressing a conference of Hnchakian which was called to make additional changes in the party’s statutes demanded by the Justice Ministry. The party, which has structures in the Armenian Diaspora, will make a new registration bid next week.
Incidentally, the new law on parties was authored by Artarutyun’s dominant force, the People’s Party of Armenia.
(RFE/RL photo: Aram Sarkisian.)