By Karine Kalantarian
Former Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekian on Tuesday committed his political future to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), saying that he will not leave the governing party even if it joins the opposition.
Aghabekian, who has the rank of lieutenant-general ,was relieved of his duties and discharged from the armed forces last month in order to be able to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections on the Dashnaktsutyun ticket. His name is 10th on the list of the nationalist party’s election candidates.
Aghabekian has long maintained close ties with Dashnaktsutyun despite his reputation as a figure close to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, whose rapport with the party has often been frosty. The two men are natives of Nagorno-Karabakh and played a major role during its 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Aghabekian insisted that he will remain loyal to the Dashnaks even if they move into opposition to Armenia’s current leadership after the May 12 elections. “I can see Dashnaktsutyun in both opposition and in government,” he said. “I have no problem with that. I didn’t even set myself the goal of becoming a parliament deputy.”
Dashnaktsutyun leaders have warned that they will join the opposition camp if the vote falls short of democratic standards or if their party fails to make a strong showing. They have also indicated that they will not endorse Sarkisian’s candidacy in next year’s presidential election.
Aghabekian’s resignation fueled speculation that he might be offered the post of defense minister in return for a Dashnaktsutyun endorsement of Sarkisian’s anticipated presidential run. According to some media reports, the party is also considering fielding the retired general’s candidacy in the presidential ballot to be held in Karabakh this summer.
Aghabekian pointedly declined to refute those rumors. “If Dashnaktsutyun sets the aim of having a defense minister, soldier Aghabekian will perform that duty with pleasure,” he said. “If Dashnaktsutyun decides that I have nothing to do in Armenia and must again go back to Karabakh, then I can work as a [Karabakh] village mayor or president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”