By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Wednesday angrily withdrew its support from Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian in protest against the unexpected sacking of its sole minister in his cabinet.
In a strongly-worded statement, the local branch of the influential pan-Armenian party announced the resignation of all other Dashnaktsutyun members serving in the Karabakh government. It also portrayed Ghukasian as a weak and dishonest leader who is disinterested in the unrecognized republic’s democratization.
“He has failed to become a symbol of unity and solidarity,” the statement charged.
The dismissal of Armen Sargsian, Karabakh’s longtime education and culture minister affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun, was announced by Ghukasian’s office on Friday as part of a sweeping government reshuffle. It followed strong criticism of the government’s track record voiced by Ghukasian.
According to the Dashnaktsutyun statement, the Karabakh leader was never unhappy with Sargsian’s performance and even thanked him for his “efficient work” just days before firing him.
“In reality, Ghukasian never came to terms to the comparative success achieved by Dashnaktsutyun and other democratic forces during the recent local elections,” said the statement. “He is seriously worried about the upcoming parliamentary elections [due in 2005].”
The polls saw an opposition candidate endorsed by Dashnaktsutyun beat a Ghukasian-backed challenger and become mayor of the capital Stepanakert. The statement suggested that Ghukasian now fears losing control of the Karabakh parliament currently dominated by his loyalists.
“With this step, the president is effectively driving Dashnaktsutyun, the leading political force of Artsakh (Karabakh), into opposition,” it said. “He is also not conscious of the domestic and international significance of holding free, legitimate and democratic elections in Artsakh.”
The Karabakh Dashnaks have already been in opposition to Ghukasian in the past. They were given senior government posts in return for endorsing Ghukasian’s reelection bid in the August 2002 presidential ballot. The statement explained that they never fully agreed with his internal policies and cut the power-sharing deal only “in the interests of the Artsakh people.”
Ghukasian subjected his government to unusually strong criticism at a meeting with a large group of Karabakh officials on December 16. He complained that government and law-enforcement officials are mired in corruption and “indifferent to citizens’ problems.” He did not name names, however.