By Karine Kalantarian
Vazgen Manukian, a prominent opposition politician, warned on Tuesday that he and his party will have to boycott the next parliamentary elections if Armenian politics continues to degenerate into infighting among various government factions.
“If it is possible to introduce changes in Armenia which would ensure that political struggle makes sense, we will take part [in the 2007 elections], in a bloc or separately,” he said, referring to his National Democratic Union (AZhM). “If such changes do not take place, I will conclude that it is meaningless to contest those elections, regardless of our chances.”
Although Manukian would not say what specifically should change in the political arena, the comments clearly reflect his frustration with a perceived lack of progress in Armenia’s democratization and the opposition’s failure to effect regime change. This reality was highlighted by the AZhM’s and other major opposition groups’ inability to pull large crowds at their mostly recent rallies held in the wake of the November 27 constitutional referendum.
The Armenian opposition was further relegated to the political sidelines earlier this month with the emergence of a new pro-establishment party set up by one of Armenia’s wealthiest government-connected businessmen, Gagik Tsarukian. The party called Prosperous is seeking to enlist the support of prominent public figures with the aim of making a strong showing in the 2007 polls. Its far-reaching ambitions have reportedly alarmed the three parties represented in President Robert Kocharian’s government. The Yerevan daily “Aravot” reported on Tuesday that the biggest of them, the Republican Party, is so concerned that it is now ready to team up with Tsarukian.
Political analysts say that with the Armenian opposition increasingly marginalized and isolated, the main players in the 2007 parliamentary race will be Prosperous Armenia and the “traditional” pro-establishment parties. Manukian did not deny this.
“[Tsarukian’s] party will compete with the likes of itself, it is not out to fight against the opposition,” he said. “The opposition has already been brushed aside. They will fight among themselves. There are many sharks among them.”