By Ruzanna Stepanian
A top leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) repeated on Monday that the influential party will not support Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in next year’s presidential election.
“Dashnaktsutyun will have its own candidate. That means we won’t back any other candidate.” said Hrant Markarian. He specified that Sarkisian will not be a Dashnaktsutyun candidate.
The remarks came just days after one of Sarkisian’s closest associates, Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekian, confirmed reports that he will resign his post next month to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections on the Dashnaktsutyun ticket. The development is quite extraordinary given the fact that Sarkisian’s relationship with the nationalist party has been quite frosty.
It has fueled speculation that the Armenian defense chief is courting the Dashnaks to back his presidential bid and is ready to name Aghabekian defense minister in return. Most of the other, more powerful government forces have already rallied around him.
Dashnaktsutyun, meanwhile, is continuing to distance itself from President Robert Kocharian’s cabinet in which it is represented by four ministers. Markarian showed journalists newly printed booklets that describe the party’s track record in government as a success. The pre-election booklets at the same time tell voters that Dashnaktsutyun has only 11 seats in the current 131-seat National Assembly and lacks influence on government policies.
Armen Rustamian, another top party leader, warned earlier this month that the Dashnaks will pull out of the ruling coalition “if the number of our parliament deputies does not enable us to influence the adoption of government decisions.” He reiterated that they will join the opposition camp if the forthcoming polls fail to meet democratic standards.
Markarian also indicated his party’s unhappiness with its current status. He said Dashnaktsutyun believes it is popular enough to make a strong showing in the polls.
(Photolur photo: Markarian, right, and Sarkisian attend the opening of an Armenian military think-tank on Thursday.)