By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Shakeh Avoyan
The chairman of Armenia’s former ruling party said on Thursday that it will strive to team up with other allies of former Levon Ter-Petrosian to contest next year’s parliamentary elections and return to mainstream politics after years in the wilderness.
Ararat Zurabian of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) did not deny that the center-right party will hardly manage to reenter the National Assembly without the backing of other politicians and political groups sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian.
“I can’t say today whether or not we will contest the elections on our own,” he told RFE/RL. “But we are not inclined to go it alone. I think we will run in a political team and there will be some scope for agreement with political forces with which we concur and share the same vision for Armenia’s development.”
Zurabian would not say whether he is ready to mend fences with more prominent HHSh figures, including former parliament speaker Babken Ararktsian and former Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, that make up a dissident faction called Armat. While maintaining close ties to Ter-Petrosian, they have had little involvement in HHSh affairs ever since falling out in the late 1990s with the party’s current leadership dominated by loyalists of the fugitive former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian.
Attempts by Armat and other pro-Ter-Petrosian groups to form a single electoral bloc have failed in the past because of their uneasy relationship with Zurabian and other HHSh leaders. None of them is represented in the current Armenian parliament, underscoring the dramatic decline of the ex-president’s power base since his resignation in February 1998.
In a separate interview with RFE/RL, Ararktsian exposed his frustration with the lingering discord among Ter-Petrosian allies that seem to be united only in their deep dislike of Armenia’s current leadership responsible for their downfall. “In general, liberals consider themselves intelligent persons,” he said. “They must prove that they are intelligent. Their failure to unite would cast serious doubt on the premise that they are intelligent.”
“I hope there will be really intelligent people among them who would create at least a liberal grouping,” added Ararktsian.
Ter-Petrosian’s divided allies agree that he should make a political comeback and lead them in the next presidential and parliamentary elections. “Levon Ter-Petrosian remains the leader of the HHSh,” stressed Zurabian.
However, the reclusive ex-president continues to keep an extremely low profile and has so far been reluctant to return to active politics. Few observers believe that he could make a strong showing in elections. The HHSh and its splinter groups, known for their pro-Western orientation and a conciliatory line on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, appear to remain unpopular in Armenia, with many people still associating them with the economic hardship of the early 1990s.
(Photolur photo: Ararat Zurabian.)