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By Ruzanna Stepanian
Leaders of a new party reputedly sponsored by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian denied on Thursday reports that it will merge with the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) at the behest of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

The news reports gained more weight after it emerged this week that several senior members of the Association for Armenia party have decided to join the HHK and thereby align themselves with Sarkisian. All of them are members of the People’s Deputy group of ostensibly independent parliamentarians that have close ties with the Armenian government.

The 17-strong group was until now a key component of the Association for Armenia along with senior members of a Hovsepian-led organization uniting prominent natives of the Aparan district in central Armenia. The group’s secretary, Vahram Baghdasarian, has been coordinating the establishment of party structures across the country.

Baghdasarian told RFE/RL that the party already numbers 30,000 members and has no intention to become part of the HHK. He said it could only form an electoral alliance with the Republicans. “We do not rule out negotiations or alliances,” he said. “I know for sure that no party can win an absolute majority in the parliament.”

Baghdasarian also downplayed the defection of People’s Deputy lawmakers to the HHK, saying that they are not “irreplaceable” for the Association. He admitted that Sarkisian’s affiliation with the HHK played a major part in their decision to switch sides. “There is no denying the fact that the role of individuals is quite large in our country,” he said. “One of our goals is to reduce that role over time.”

Hovsepian, who has extensive political and economic interests, continues to be widely associated with the Association despite his repeated denials of any links with it . His perceived sponsorship of the party was condemned recently by a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, another party represented in President Robert Kocharian’s government.

Baghdasarian insisted that the influential prosecutor was not behind the recent creation of his party. “There is no such thing,” he said. “The prosecutor-general is doing is job.”

(Photolur photo: Vahram Baghdasarian.)
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