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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) expects a final decision on whether his party will continue its presence in the ruling coalition within hours.

“We are approaching the finishing line,” ARF Bureau representative Hrant Markarian told RFE/RL on Monday. “I think the answer will be published tomorrow. It is either this way, or that.”

Earlier on Monday the ARF Supreme Council of Armenia held yet another meeting to discuss the party’s immediate plans. However, ARF representatives still avoid giving specific answers regarding their participation in the possible coalition.

Discussions between the ARF leadership and President Robert Kocharian regarding a new political coalition began still last week.

The ARF leadership then reportedly received “new proposals” from the head of state on the terms of the party’s continued presence in Sarkisian’s government, where it currently holds four portfolios.

The party’s Supreme Council met on Friday, but made no decisions apart from instructing its collective leadership to draft a response to Kocharian’s proposals.

“The ARF Dashnaktsutyun has presented its positions and they must be preserved. Of course, this implies keeping political independence,” ARF Supreme Council representative Armen Rustamian told RFE/RL late last week. “The question of portfolios is the very last and easiest.”

According to sources outside the party, the Republican Party (HHK) and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) will be two constituents of the emerging political coalition with established terms of cooperation with the ARF in two fields of government responsibility, giving the party two government posts – that of the minister of education and science, and the minister of agriculture, as well as two regional governors’ offices. The sphere of labor and social welfare may also figure as a subject of negotiations. The same sources predict that the ARF may retain the posts of parliament vice-speaker, the foreign relations committee chairman and the chairman of the committee on national security, the interior and defense affairs.

No one from the ARF wished either to confirm or deny this information.

The assumed cooperation format gives the ARF political freedom to withhold its support to the single presidential candidate from the coalition in next year’s presidential election, which is said to be a demand from the party’s worldwide structures.

Meanwhile, Dashnak endorsement may prove a major boost to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s chances of succeeding Robert Kocharian as president 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 has won an outright majority in the Armenian parliament. Dashnaktsutyun, by comparison, will have only 16 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.

Sources outside the BHK say that the party, which came a distant second in last month’s parliamentary polls, may count on three ministries in the new government – health, urban development, and part of the environment ministry to be restructured. The same sources suggest there are also offers of deputy ministers’ and regional governors’ positions to the party.
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