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By Shakeh Avoyan
In a further manifestation of its differences with opposition allies, the Hanrapetutyun party suggested Wednesday that its outspoken leader, Aram Sarkisian, might be better placed to spearhead an opposition push for power than the ruling regime’s most popular detractor, Stepan Demirchian.

Hanrapetutyun has been an important member of the Artarutyun alliance led by Demirchian since its creation about a year ago.

Its spokesman, Suren Sureniants, told RFE/RL that the party continues to recognize Demirchian as the rightful winner of last year’s disputed presidential elections. But he argued that the 2003 elections are already a past chapter in Armenia’s political life and that a new leader might be needed for the success of a “democratic revolution” promised by Hanrapetutyun.

“We are presenting to the public another leader who we believe would best implement that program and is one of the most viable alternatives to the regime,” Sureniants said, referring to Sarkisian.

Speaking at a rally in Yerevan at the weekend, Sarkisian said opposition supporters will hear later this month a “decisive call” for a campaign of demonstrations that will demand President Robert Kocharian’s resignation. He indicated that Hanrapetutyun will launch the offensive even if its plan of radical actions is not approved by its Artarutyun allies.

A spokeswoman for Demirchian’s People’s Party (HZhK) said the leadership of Artarutyun has not yet set any dates for the start of mass protests in Yerevan, warning that Hanrapetutyun would “place itself beyond the alliance” with unilateral steps. “The bloc’s statutes simply do not accept a different behavior,” Ruzan Khachatrian told RFE/RL.

“The Hanrapetutyun party has not raised such issues in the alliance. It can be suggested that this was just a rally technique,” she said.

Khachatrian also dismissed any inroads on Demirchian’s claim to opposition leadership, saying that “only the people” can choose their leader.

Demirchian’s cautious tactics of political struggle has always contrasted with Sarkisian’s firebrand rhetoric that galvanized opposition crowds during last year’s anti-Kocharian rallies. Relations between the two men have been less than cordial in recent months. Some Hanrapetutyun leaders, including Sureniants, have openly blamed the opposition’s failure to unseat Kocharian on Demirchian’s “indecisiveness.”

(Photolur photo: Aram Sarkisian.)
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