By Ruzanna Stepanian
A new pro-establishment party which is reputedly sponsored by Armenia’s influential Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian revealed on Thursday far-reaching political ambitions, saying it will seek to win next year’s parliamentary election and enter the government.
A leading member of the party called the Association for Armenia, Levon Khachatrian, told RFE/RL that it has managed to recruit 11,500 members in less than three weeks and plans to almost double its membership in the coming weeks.
The political group was set up recently by Khachatrian and 15 other businessmen that make up the People’s Deputy group of nominally independent Armenian parliamentarians loyal to President Robert Kocharian. Hovsepian is widely believed to have played a major part in its creation despite his repeated claims to the contrary.
A close friend of Hovsepian’s, Khachatrian also insisted that the Association for Armenia has no links with the prosecutor and will not act as his political power base. He said it will only strive to win a majority” in the next National Assembly. “We will have a majority in the parliament and form the government,” he said. “I’m sure we will.”
Similar ambitions are harbored by another pro-establishment party that was unveiled in January by one of Armenia’s richest businessmen, Gagik Tsarukian. The Prosperous Armenia Party has already enlisted thousands of public sector employees and other people in Tsarukian’s de facto fiefdom that encompasses the town of Abovian and surrounding villages. However, the oligarch is far less influential in other parts of Armenia.
By contrast, the members of the People’s Deputy that lead the Association for Armenia represent and hold sway in single-mandate constituencies covering a much bigger area. “The fast recruitment [of party members] is probably the result of the People’s Deputy’s reputation and a large circle of supporters which it has always had,” said Khachatrian.
He stressed that the party has not yet begun to attract members in its stronghold: the central Aragatsotn province that comprises Hovsepian’s hometown of Aparan and nearby villages. The prosecutor is the top leader of a supposedly apolitical Nig-Aparan organization uniting prominent natives of the area.
“I think the Aragatsotn region will make the right choice,” Khachatrian said, referring to the 2007 election. He added that his party also expects to make a strong showing in two Yerevan districts run by senior members of Nig-Aparan.
(Photolur photo: Aghvan Hovsepian.)