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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Friday that his coalition cabinet is unlikely to fall apart despite harsh criticism of his Republican Party (HHK) made by one of its two junior partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). But he said the Republicans will “clarify” its relationship with Dashnaktsutyun one of whose leaders accused them of vote rigging and corruption.

“I don’t think it is fair to say that it makes no sense to keep the coalition,” Markarian told RFE/RL in an interview. “But a certain clarification of positions is needed.”

He said leaders of the three governing parties should meet to discuss the publicly made allegations after the end of Dashnaktsutyun’s ongoing convention expected next week.

The gathering began in Yerevan on February 6 with a bombshell speech by the party’s most influential member, Hrant Markarian (no relation to the prime minister), in which he criticized President Robert Kocharian’s and the government’s track record. In a thinly veiled attack on the HHK and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir Party, Markarian said pro-Kocharian groups other than his party won last May’s parliamentary elections with vote buying and populism. The criticism deepened differences that have dogged the three parties ever since they cut the power-sharing deal with Kocharian in June.

“We find unacceptable the approaches expressed by Mr. Markarian at the congress,” the Armenia premier said. “We will certainly discuss this issue in the coalition board. Let’s just wait till the end of the congress.”

Andranik Markarian repeated his party’s claims that the reported fraud did not affect the outcome of the vote criticized as undemocratic by international observers. He also argued that Dashnaktsutyun is just as responsible for those violations as the HHK or Orinats Yerkir because all three parties were equally represented in various-level electoral commissions. “They can’t blame what happened on one or several parties and try to look untainted by that process,” he said bluntly.

The significance of the latest government infighting has been played down by Kocharian and his closest and most powerful associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Both men have expressed confidence that the coalition will continue to exist in its current form.
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