By Astghik Bedevian
Former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian said on Tuesday that his Orinats Yerkir party could form electoral alliances with other major opposition groups but again declined to name its potential allies.
“Formation of pre-election alliances is not ruled out,” Baghdasarian said in an interview with RFE/RL. “But it is still too early to talk about that. Not because there are some agreements that are not being made public.”
“There are just no such agreements yet. There is only a desire to cooperate on concrete issues,” he said.
Baghdasarian confirmed that he has been holding talks with other opposition forces with an eye towards parliamentary elections slated for next spring. The talks have prompted speculation that Orinats Yerkir, which was forced out of the governing coalition last May, might team up with pro-Western parties led by former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian.
Baghdasarian signaled the start of his preparations for the elections last week by publicly denouncing the Armenian authorities’ controversial exchange rate policies and announcing plans to try to force them to cut key utility prices. The ambitious ex-speaker, widely dismissed by his critics as a populist, on Tuesday stood by his allegations that the authorities are deliberately bolstering the Armenian dram to siphon off a large part of multimillion-dollar cash remittances from Armenians working abroad. “They will be using that money to buy votes from people,” he charged.
Baghdasarian also renewed Orinats Yerkir allegations, echoed by other opposition parties, that many senior government officials engage in “criminal activities.” However, he remained reluctant to name any of them. “We know that there are many people who don’t care about law and order in Armenia,” he said. “The press is flooded with reports about various nicknamed ministers and officials.”
“Don’t we see that people lose millions of dollars in one or another casino. Isn’t that criminal activity?” he added.
Baghdasarian dismissed the fact that most of the wealthy Orinats Yerkir parliamentarians who defected from his party ahead of its ouster from the coalition were also better known to the public with their nicknames. “Those people are not with us, and I’m not going to bear responsible for their activities,” he said.