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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A prominent politician who was censured by the Artarutyun bloc for his refusal to campaign against the government-drafted constitutional amendments announced on Wednesday his effective withdrawal from Armenia’s largest opposition group.

Shavarsh Kocharian said he and his small National Democratic Party (AZhK) are suspending their participation in Artarutyun’s activities and will resume it only if the bloc admits its “mistakes” committed in the run-up to the November 27 constitutional referendum. “We will not rule out the possibility of our participation, if the Artarutyun alliance reviews what it has done and what it has not done and draws appropriate conclusions by admitting its mistakes,” he said.

The AZhK pointedly refused to take part in the pre-referendum “No” campaign conducted by the eight other parties making up Artarutyun and other major opposition groups. The latter found this tantamount to siding with the ruling regime, and Kocharian was dismissed on December 12 as Artarutyun’s representative to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).

Kocharian made it clear that he expects a prompt reply from his estranged allies. “We will not be waiting endlessly,” he told reporters.

The de facto ultimatum is bound to be rejected by the bloc’s leaders, suggesting that the AZhK’s formal exit is a matter of time. “I don’t think this approach is worthy of a response,” scoffed Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the most radical of the Artarutyun parties, Hanrapetutyun (Republic).

“I don’t like it when members of the alliance make public statements on the alliance,” said another Artarutyun leader, Vazgen Manukian. “As for their positions, everyone, including Shavarsh Kocharian, is free to decide their future.”

Kocharian (no relation to Armenia’s president) is particularly unhappy Sarkisian’s attempts to stir up a “revolution” in Armenia and accuses him of imposing his radical agenda on the opposition alliance. “They were promising and making the people believe that there will be a revolution on November 27,” he told a news conference. “But today they have not only nothing to do but nothing to say apart from insulting persons. Unfortunately, Aram Sarkisian is consistently sticking to that line.”

“In my view, those individuals who are fighting for positions in the government pyramid have no right to evaluate the opposition,” hit back Sarkisian, referring to media speculation that the AZhK leader is now ready cooperate with the government. In particular, he has been linked with the post of state human rights ombudsperson which will become vacant next month.

But Kocharian dismissed the speculation in a separate interview with RFE/RL, saying that his appointment as ombudsperson by the government-controlled parliament would be “illogical.” He also said he continues to consider the ruling regime to be “illegitimate.”

(Photolur photo: Shavarsh Kocharian.)
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