By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The leadership of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) was having what appeared to be final deliberations on its continued presence in Armenia’s government on Friday after holding more talks with President Robert Kocharian.
Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of its worldwide governing Bureau, told RFE/RL that Kocharian presented him and other top party leaders with “new proposals” on the terms of Dashnaktsutyun’s involvement in a coalition government to be formed by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Markarian refused to disclose those proposals, saying only that they will be presented to the governing Supreme Body of the Dashnaktsutyun organization in Armenia. The body met later on Friday but made no decisions apart from instructing its collective leadership to draft a response to Kocharian’s proposals.
“The meeting was adjourned,” a senior party member, Gegham Manukian, told RFE/RL. “Discussions will continue later on.”
Party officials say that the Supreme Body, of which Markarian is not a member, will have a final say on the matter, even though it is formally subordinated to the Bureau dominated by Diaspora Armenians. Markarian implied that the influential party, which has branches in virtually all major Armenian communities abroad, will announce on Saturday whether or not it will join Sarkisian’s cabinet.
Markarian and the top Supreme Body member, Armen Rustamian, already met Kocharian on Wednesday but apparently failed to reach any agreement. Lragir.am reported that they also held more with Sarkisian and other senior representatives of the governing Republican Party (HHK) in Kocharian’s presence late Thursday. According to the online news service, the Dashnaktsutyun leaders again rejected Sarkisian’s demands that they commit themselves to supporting him in next year’s presidential election in return for retaining their control over three or four government ministries.
Dashnaktsutyun endorsement would give a major boost to Sarkisian’s chances of succeeding Kocharian as president early next year. Observers believe this is the reason why he is ready to share power with the center-left nationalist party despite the fact that his HHK won an outright majority in the Armenian parliament in the May 12 elections. Dashnaktsutyun, by comparison, will have only 16 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.
In an interview with RFE/RL earlier this week, Markarian said his party is seeking a greater say in the formulation of key government policies and will not be “bribed” by ministerial portfolios. He and other party leaders had earlier demanded that Armenia’s next defense minister be affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun. However, the HHK’s landslide election victory all but ruled out such possibility.