By Ruzanna Stepanian and Astghik Bedevian
President Robert Kocharian downplayed on Friday the effective ouster of one of the three political parties represented in his government, saying through a spokesman that it does not signify a political crisis in Armenia.
“A change in the ruling coalition is an ordinary phenomenon for any civilized country,” the presidential press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, told RFE/RL, commenting on the Orinats Yerkir Party’s decision to pull out of the government. “So in this case, nothing very extraordinary has happened, especially given the fact that there were some disagreements within the coalition and they understandably deepened during the pre-election period.”
“We are confident that what happened will not lead to an internal political crisis,” said Soghomonian. “The so-called divorce took place in an open and civilized atmosphere. Both the government and the National Assembly will continue to work in a normal regime.”
The “divorce” was officially announced by Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian after his meeting with Kocharian and leaders of his hitherto coalition partners, the Republican Party (HHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
The two-hour meeting, which took place at Kocharian’s official residence, was also attended by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Baghdasarian was seen leaving the presidential palace mid-way through it and heading for the nearby parliament building to announce his resignation.
“The resignation was tendered voluntarily,” Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, claimed after the meeting. “It was not a punishment. It was a normal political event.”
“Orinats Yerkir will recall its officials, after which we will discuss other issues,” Rustamian told reporters. “The coalition forces will continue to work together and, with their share of responsibility, implement the programs which we ourselves had endorsed.”
Orinats Yerkir’s exit leaves the HHK and Dashnaktsutyun in direct control of only 51 of the 131 parliament seats. But Rustamian was confident that the restructured coalition will rely on other pro-Kocharian factions to push government decisions through the National Assembly. He said none of them will likely get ministerial posts in return for the backing.
Rustamian also did not rule out the possibility of Dashnaktsutyun taking over some of the senior positions that have been held by Orinats Yerkir until now. “We have not made such a clear-cut decision,” he said. “But I don’t rule out that the discussions will lead to such a reshuffle.”
(Photolur photo: Kocharian looks on as Baghdasarian and Markarian sign a power-sharing agreement on June 11, 2003.)