By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s most radical opposition party and its allies are moving toward the establishment of a new, Western-leaning alliance but could still need months to finalize the deal, one of its leaders said on Tuesday.
The Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian has been in talks with two smaller opposition groups led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian and a former senior lawmaker, Hovannes Hovannisian, for the past two months. The latter has already declared that they will form next month a bloc that will seek to oust President Robert Kocharian by offering a distinctly pro-Western alternative to Armenia’s foreign policy, traditionally oriented toward Russia.
But a top Sarkisian aide, Suren Sureniants, effectively denied this, saying that the time frame is not realistic. “Our party is a bit cautious about the pace [of alliance formation],” he told RFE/RL. “We are not going to accelerate or slow down the process of creating a new format [of opposition cooperation].”
“I don’t think it will be technically possible to unveil it in January. We are definitely not there yet,” Sureniants added.
“If the process was in the concluding stage, the Hanrapetutyun board would have already announced that. But the issue has not yet been discussed by it.”
The three parties, which refuse to recognize Kocharian’s legitimacy, appear to have been buoyed by the success of the Western-backed “orange revolution” in Ukraine sparked by a reputedly fraudulent presidential election. Hovannes Hovannisian’s Liberal Progressive Party is seen as the most pro-Western of them, openly calling for Armenia’s withdrawal from the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty and accession to NATO.
Hanrapetutyun, which is a major force in Armenia’s presently biggest opposition alliance, Artarutyun, favors a less radical foreign policy shift. But its leaders are also increasingly critical of Russia’s policy on Armenia and the South Caucasus which Sureniants said “has nothing to do with our people’s aspirations to freedom and independence.”
Sureniants accused Russia of treating Armenia as its regional “vassal” and helping the Kocharian government thwart the country’s democratization. He also reiterated his view that Artarutyun could not unseat Kocharian with a campaign of street protests last spring because of its failure to come up with alternative foreign policy solutions.
Artarutyun’s top leader, Stepan Demirchian, has reportedly taken part in some of the ongoing talks but remains opposed to any structural changes in the opposition camp. Opposition sources say neither Demirchian’s People’s Party nor any other Artarutyun member except Hanrapetutyun are likely to join the would-be alliance.
The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) is also unlikely to be brought into the picture, according to the sources. However, they do not rule out the participation of other allies of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
(Photolur photo: Suren Sureniants.)