By Ruzanna Stepanian
Victor Dallakian, a prominent opposition politician, has completed his shock defection from the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance which is widely expected to earn him a senior position in an ambitious party led by Armenia’s top government-connected “oligarch.”
Dallakian formally notified the bloc’s top leader Stepan Demirchian of his exit in a letter which the latter received at the weekend. “I thank you and other members of the Artarutyun faction [in parliament] for joint work,” read the letter. “I apologize to all of you if I failed in some of my undertakings.”
Dallakian has been tipped to quit Artarutyun ever since millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian unveiled his party, called Prosperous Armenia, last January. A source close to the party told RFE/RL at the time that the outspoken oppositionist will be one of its top candidates in next year’s parliamentary elections in which Tsarukian plans to do well.
The source, who asked not to be identified, reiterated this in an interview on Monday. “The professionalism and popularity of Victor Dallakian coupled with Gagik Tsarukian’s organizational and financial capabilities could become a serious factor in Armenia’s political life,” he said, adding that Dallakian is aiming for the post of speaker of the next National Assembly.
Prosperous Armenia already claims to be the largest political party with more than 200,000 members and 300 offices across the country. It is increasingly seen as the brainchild of President Robert Kocharian who analysts say needs a new, utterly loyal support base to retain a key role in government after completing his second and final term in office in 2008.
The Armenian press has been rife with speculation in recent months about Kocharian’s growing unease over the governing Republican Party’s far-reaching alliance with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, his hitherto closest associate and most likely successor. Sarkisian stoked that speculation last month by dismissing Prosperous Armenia as an inexperienced political force that can not serve as a presidential power base.
Dallakian’s affiliation with Tsarukian’s party is all the more surprising given his reputation as one of the most bitter detractors of Kocharian. He has repeatedly referred to the ruling regime as a “junta” and “clan.” Dallakian was also at the forefront of the Armenian opposition’s unsuccessful attempt to topple Kocharian with a campaign of street protests in Yerevan in the spring of 2004.
Most Artarutyun leaders were careful on Monday not to condemn Dallakian’s dramatic exit which will only accelerate the bloc’s ongoing disintegration. “What happened wasn’t unexpected,” Demirchian said, refusing to comment on the move.
“Naturally, elections are coming up and politicians have to make decisions,” argued Vazgen Manukian, who is widely expected to part company with Demirchian and team up with other opposition forces.
But another, more radical opposition leader, Aram Sarkisian, made no secret of his deep dislike of Dallakian, saying that the latter will now be part of a “political pyramid which is topped by Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian and symbolizes evil, fraud, injustice and corruption.” “I don’t think that Victor Dallakian or Prosperous Armenia will gain anything with that move,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL.
(Photolur photo: Victor Dallakian.)