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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) warned on Wednesday that it will walk out of Armenia’s ruling coalition unless its government partners expedite major electoral reform and combat corruption in earnest.

The warning followed a weekend conference of the pan-Armenian party’s organization in Armenia held behind the closed doors. Armen Rustamian and other members of its governing Supreme Body had questioned the Armenian government’s democratic credentials and deplored the slow pace of change in the country earlier in October.

“Dashnaktsutyun reserves the right to reconsider its participation in the coalition government in the event of a breach of the goals spelled out in the [June 2004] memorandum on its creation,” Rustamian said, outlining decisions made by the conference.

Rustamian singled out in this regard the Dashnaktsutyun demands, backed by the Armenian opposition, for an increase in the share of parliament seats contested on the party list basis as opposed to individual races in single-mandate constituencies. He emphasized that that was one of the main points of the coalition deal.

Dashnaktsutyun’s senior coalition partner, the Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, as well as other pro-establishment factions are opposed to a major change of electoral system. According to Rustamian, failure to change it would mean a “blatant violation of the memorandum.”

Dashnaktsutyun’s lobbying for relevant amendments to Armenia’s electoral law have been construed by some observers as an expectation of an eventual dissolution of the current parliament and pre-term elections. Its leaders did not openly express such a desire, saying instead that Markarian’s coalition cabinet has played a positive role in stabilizing the political situation and can boast other achievements.

Still, one of them, Levon Mkrtchian, said: “In the next two years the Supreme Body must do a very serious job of preparing the party for the next elections.”

The nationalist party which has supported President Robert Kocharian throughout his six-year presidency is reportedly unhappy with the extent of its representation in government. At a similar news conference a month ago its leaders called for the ouster of unspecified powerful individuals close to Kocharian, saying that they are abusing their power.

They also said that the authorities’ declared fight against endemic corruption has yielded few concrete results --- a complaint reiterated by Rustamian on Wednesday.

(Photolur photo)
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