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By Narek Galstian
The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) is increasingly sympathetic to Armenia’s most radical mainstream opposition party and ready to set up an alliance with the latter, its deputy chairman said on Friday.

Aram Manukian told RFE/RL that the HHSh, which remains the main support base of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, and the Hanrapetutyun party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian share the same “goals and ways of achieving them.”

“That is absolutely possible because we have no ideological differences,” he said, commenting on the possibility of an HHSh-Hanrapetutyun alliance. “Relations between the leaders and the youth wings of our parties are very close and even friendly on the personal level. Nothing prevents us from engaging in a very serious program-based cooperation with the Hanrapetutyun party.”

Manukian argued that the two parties have already acted jointly in the past. “Two years ago, when [President Robert Kocharian’s] previous constitutional draft was put to a referendum, only two parties, the HHSh and Hanrapetutyun, officially rejected and campaigned against it. Today the two parties again have the most principled, radical and audacious attitudes to the process of constitutional changes.”

The HHSh leader was speaking during a seminar jointly organized by the youth wings of the two opposition groups. “We are not afraid of such cooperation,” said the Hanrapetutyun youth leader, Vahan Babayan.

Sarkisian, who is perceived by the ruling regime to be its most dangerous opponent, is known to have maintained personal contacts with some members of Ter-Petrosian’s inner circle. Especially since a radical pro-West shift in his foreign policy late last year. Sarkisian and his associates now openly advocate Armenia’s withdrawal from a Russian-led military pact and accession to NATO.

The eight other parties aligned in Armenia’s main opposition bloc, Artarutyun, favor a more cautious stance. They are also wary of any contacts with the HHSh which remains highly unpopular more than seven years after Ter-Petrosian’s resignation.

Sarkisian’s readiness to cooperate with the ex-president’s allies was apparently one of the reasons for a bitter rift within the Hanrapetutyun leadership. Seven members of Hanrapetutyun’s 15-strong governing board left the party earlier this month in protest against its increasingly pro-Western position.

Sarkisian and his entourage have played down the rift, saying that the vast majority of Hanrapetutyun chapters across Armenia remain loyal to them. A Hanrapetutyun statement on Friday said only the party branches in Gyumri, Ashtarak, Echmiadzin and Yerevan’s Arabkir district sided with the dissenters and were disbanded as a result.

The crisis forced Sarkisian’s party to call an emergency congress which is due to take place by the end of this month.
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