By Armen Zakarian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
Discord within Armenia’s main opposition alliance, Artarutyun (Justice), deepened on Tuesday as the most radical of its nine parties warned its allies against cooperating with the authorities on constitutional reform.
The Hanrapetutyun party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian further distanced itself from the bloc with another statement rejecting any amendments proposed by President Robert Kocharian and refusing to end its boycott of parliament under any circumstances.
“The Hanrapetutyun party … will not take part in [next month’s] constitutional debates and will continue the parliament’s boycott,” the statement said. “The party is saying ‘no’ to constitutional changes that are put forward by a regime based on repression and fraud and aim to mislead the people of Armenia and the international community.”
Sarkisian confirmed that this means Hanrapetutyun will leave the bloc if it decides to endorse the revised amendments drafted by Kocharian and the governing coalition. If they say ‘yes’ [to the new constitution] we will have nothing to do in the bloc,” he told RFE/RL.
The amendments are currently examined by constitutional law experts from the Council of Europe that are due to deliver their verdict on Wednesday. Artarutyun has said it will endorse them if the authorities make additional changes curtailing sweeping powers enjoyed by the Armenian president. Most of its leaders believe that a reformed constitution would facilitate the difficult process of Armenia’s democratization.
But Hanrapetutyun leaders say opposition involvement in the constitutional reform would only legitimize the ruling regime. “That is an obvious trap for the opposition,” claimed Sarkisian.
The outspoken oppositionist and his associates are particularly furious with Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president), an Artarutyun parliamentarian who has been involved in the reform process. Kocharian hit back at their verbal attacks on Tuesday, exposing the extent of intra-opposition tensions.
“It is very good for the authorities to have an opposition which doesn’t influence processes, which is not the force steering Armenia to European integration and which only says ‘the regime is illegitimate and we’ll do a revolution tomorrow.’ So why don’t they do it? Why haven’t they done it so far?” he said.
Shavarsh Kocharian also derided Sarkisian’s and the two other Hanrapetutyun lawmakers’ long-running threats to quit the National Assembly. “Do you have to discuss whether or not you are handing back your mandate for two years?” he asked. “If you can’t make a decision for two years, how are you going to bring about a revolution?”
“It is very suspicious that Shavarsh Kocharian is so actively engaged in constitutional discussions,” responded Hanrapetutyun’s Smbat Ayvazian. “He is essentially doing what the authorities need.”