By Emil Danielyan and Armen Zakarian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) appeared Wednesday to have backed away from a further confrontation with its coalition partners, dropping some of its leader’s controversial views from the concluding statement of the marathon congress of its worldwide chapters.
The document, publicized by the pan-Armenian nationalist party one day after the congress finished its work in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor, makes no reference to vote irregularities in last year’s parliamentary elections blamed by its most influential member, Hrant Markarian, on other groups supporting President Robert Kocharian. Nor does it say who is to blame for the country’s socioeconomic woes and government corruption.
Opening the nearly two-week gathering on February 6, Markarian criticized Kocharian’s and the government’s track record, accusing the former of having tolerated a “triumph of injustice” in Armenia. He also implicitly accused his party’s government allies, the Republican and Orinats Yerkir parties, of using vote bribes and demagoguery to win the disputed May 2003 polls. Dashnaktsutyun, which fared more poorly, was thus “stabbed in the back,” he said.
The Republicans led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian rejected the accusations, warning that they are jeopardizing Dashnaktsutyun’s presence in the coalition cabinet. Kocharian, for his part, indicated through a spokesman that he disagrees with the party’s critical attitude to the country’s “big business.”
Another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian, said the party stands by the comments made by Hrant Markarian. The latter was reelected as the top “representative” of its worldwide governing Bureau -- the highest position in the party hierarchy. “The voice of the representative is the voice of Dashnaktsutyun,” Rustamian told RFE/RL.
However, the statement adopted by some 80 congress delegates is more cautious and general than Markarian’s bombshell speech. It states only that says Dashnaktsutyun will do its best to improve the socioeconomic situation in Armenia, ensure “the rule of law,” and fight for “the eradication of economic monopolies and corruption.”
The statement also strongly diluted Markarian’s tough rhetoric on neighboring Turkey and Georgia that contradicted official Yerevan’s foreign policy. It says that Dashnaktsutyun is against “false Turkish-Armenian reconciliation initiatives” and will step up its worldwide campaign for the recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. But it makes no mention of a possible reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border currently considered by Ankara.
Markarian, by contrast, explicitly spoke out against having an open border before a Turkish recognition of the genocide and effectively reaffirmed his party’s territorial claims to Turkey by calling for the creation of a “united Armenia.”
He also demanded that Georgia grant self-rule to its Armenian-populated region of Javakheti or face the possibility of serious unrest there. The congress's statement is less categorical even on this subject, saying vaguely that the party “will react to the Javakheti Armenians’ aspirations to autonomy to be formalized in Georgia’s constitution.”
The gathering was held behind the closed doors, and it is not clear whether there were heated debates on any of these sensitive issues. Rustamian claimed that there were no serious disagreements among the participants representing Dashnak structures in Armenia and major Diaspora communities abroad, including the United States.
“Dashnaktsutyun emerged from the congress with a clear sense of what it needs to do,” he said. “In accordance with our traditions, its decisions will be implemented by the entire party.”
The congress also elected a new Bureau comprising nine members. Only three of them are Armenian citizens.