By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian Communist Party (HKK), once a major opposition force, was facing yet another internal split Tuesday amid an intensifying rift between its first secretary Ruben Tovmasian and several prominent members.
The dissenters led by the HKK’s second secretary Sanatruk Sahakian accused Tovmasian of being corrupt and secretly collaborating with the Armenian authorities. They also indicated their intention to form their own party.
The move followed their failure to unseat Tovmasian at a weekend session of the party’s Central Committee dominated by his supporters. All of the rebel Communists were expelled from the governing body and are likely to be stripped of their HKK membership as well.
One of them, former parliament deputy Norayr Petrosian, said: “One can not talk about a split because a party splits when its different wings adopt different political positions. In this case we are dealing with corruption.”
Tovmasian’s allies denied the charges. Frunze Kharatian, another former lawmaker who was promptly chosen to replace Sahakian as second secretary, said personal “career ambitions” were behind the revolt. “If they were good Communists, they would not hold news conferences after the Central Committee plenum,” he told RFE/RL.
“We are not afraid of anyone, especially Kharatian,” Sahakian hit back. “If capitalist Kharatian is to expel me from the party, I will have no problem with that,” he said, alluding to the fact that Kharatian owns a private university in Yerevan.
The HKK has already gone though a series of similar rifts in recent years, spawning several Communist splinter groups some of which support the Armenian authorities. The staunchly pro-Russian party, which used to get a stable 10 percent of the vote in the post-Soviet national elections in the 1990s, was weakened to such an extent that it failed to win any parliament seats last year.
The current HKK leadership formally joined Armenia’s mainstream opposition last April in campaigning for President Robert Kocharian’s resignation, with Tovmasian delivering fiery anti-government speeches at opposition rallies in Yerevan. But his Communist rivals dismiss this as a ploy designed to mislead the public, saying that in reality Tovmasian supports Kocharian.