By Astghik Bedevian
The main opposition Artarutyun alliance refused on Thursday to comment on the likely defection of one of its most prominent members to an ambitious party set up by a government-connected Armenian “oligarch.”
Victor Dallakian, the number two figure in the bloc’s parliament faction, is poised to be the official chairman of millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s party called Prosperous Armenia. Dallakian did not deny this in an interview with RFE/RL on Wednesday.
“The alliance has not discussed the issue,” said Grigor Harutiunian, a member of its governing board who is close to the top Artarutyun leader, Stepan Demirchian. He was speaking with reporters after a meeting of the Artarutyun board.
“I don’t want to take at face value what has been reported by the media,” he added. “Knowing my colleague, I think that if something happens we in the alliance will be the first to know it.”
Asked whether he spoke with Dallakian about the matter, Harutiunian said, “I see no point in asking him.”
Other Artarutyun leaders also reserved judgment on what will likely be one of the most dramatic political realignments in Armenia’s post-Soviet history. “If Prosperous Armenia has decided to play an opposition role in Armenia, I will happily step aside,” one of them, Vazgen Manukian, joked.
Representatives of the governing coalition were also reticent about the surprise development. Sources close to Prosperous Armenia claim that the three pro-government parties aligned in the coalition are worried about Tsarukian’s and other oligarchs’ entry into big politics and have even proposed to team up with the latter.
But a leader of the largest government force, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed the claims as “silly.” Still, Tigran Torosian did indicate his unease over Tsarukian’s political ambitions, deploring the growing importance of financial resources in Armenian politics.
“I think money definitely plays an indirect role during election campaigns,” Torosian told RFE/RL. “Somebody can spend more, others can spend less. But if money becomes the decisive factor, that is certainly unacceptable.”
Albert Bazeyan, a parliament deputy from Artarutyun, made a similar point. “Unfortunately, we are approaching a situation where competition will center not on political views or programs but financial resources,” he said.
But Levon Mkrtchian, the parliamentary leader of another coalition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, saw nothing wrong with the emergence of the new political organization. “I have good personal relations with many opposition politicians and entrepreneurs,” he said. “I am sure that if they create a party, their positive role in Armenia will grow. So I am not jealous. Neither is my party.”