By Hrach Melkumian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) publicly expressed on Friday its dissatisfaction with Armenia’s leadership, questioning its democratic credentials and deploring the persisting “power of money” in the country.
Speaking at a special news conference, leaders of the nationalist party represented in the Armenian government also effectively called for the ouster of some powerful individuals close to President Robert Kocharian.
“It is about time high-ranking cadres in the president’s entourage stopped hiding behind the president’s back,” said Armen Rustamian, the head of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia. He refused to name anyone, saying only that “some people maintain their positions only thanks to the president’s authority.”
Dashnaktsutyun, which has branches in all major Diaspora communities, has had uneasy relationships with Kocharian’s most powerful associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and the influential Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian in the past.
Rustamian and the leader of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in parliament, Levon Mkrtchian, were also vague in their calls for the acceleration of what they see as positive change achieved by the Kocharian administration. They said only “substantial changes” in the political and socioeconomic situation can address Armenians’ “objective discontent” with their rulers.
They also admitted that the authorities’ declared fight against endemic corruption has yielded few concrete results as yet. “The scale of corruption is such that it puts the country’s stability in danger,” said Rustamian.
The Dashnaktsutyun leaders went on to express concern at the country’s political future. “There have arisen dangerous deviations and distortions in the path towards democracy and national goals,” Rustamian said, pointing to the “power of money” and chronic electoral fraud.
“The [next] parliamentary and presidential elections must be held in accordance with international standards,” he warned. “If we don’t ensure this there will certainly be no democracy in the country, and what has already been done will have no value.”
Dashnaktsutyun has been a major pro-presidential force ever since Kocharian came to power in 1998. It endorsed his controversial reelection in the March 2003 as legitimate, saying that serious irregularities reported during the two-round vote did not affect its outcome.
The Dashnaks, cried foul after the subsequent parliamentary elections, essentially backing opposition claims that they were rigged. Still, they agreed to join the coalition cabinet of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian in June 2003, citing the need to maintain stability in the country.
Rustamian claimed that for all its shortcomings the coalition government has bolstered political stability and improved Armenia’s international standing. He also made it clear that the latest Dashnaktsutyun misgivings should not be construed as a threat to join the opposition.
(Photolur photo: Rustamian, left, and Mkrtchian speaking to reporters.)