By Astghik Bedevian
Two of Armenia’s oldest traditional political parties wielding considerable influence in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora have reaffirmed their common stance on the foreign policy agenda of Armenians despite differences that exist between them in issues related to domestic politics in Armenia.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun, ARF) and the Ramkavar-Azatakan (Liberal-Democratic) Party held a joint forum in Yerevan on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the ongoing efforts aimed at ensuring an international recognition of the Armenian genocide, the rights of ethnic Armenians in Georgia’s Javakheti province, as well as internal political issues in Armenia.
Representatives of both parties stated they have no differences on the problems of Nagorno-Karabakh and the genocide.
Armenia’s oldest traditional party, Social Democratic Hunchakian Party, was also expected to participate in the forum, but refused at the last moment. Hunchakian, which also has large presence in the Armenian Diaspora, is known to have vocally endorsed ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s bid to contest presidency in next year’s elections in Armenia.
“We have the task of representing Armenian problems and Armenia in the world. These are issues where we can cooperate, but we can support different candidates. It can happen and there is no tragedy in it,” ARF Bureau representative Hrant Markarian said
“We should have solidarity at least in pan-Armenian questions,” he added. “Rivalry between Dashnaktsutyun and Ramkavar-Azatakan has a long history. If we find the strength to sit down at a table and discuss issues common for both sides, it should also become an example for Armenia’s political life.”
Dashnaktsutyun has declared its clear intention to field its own candidate in Armenia’s presidential elections scheduled for early next year. Its congress is due to pick a candidate between two nominees later this month.
Vahan Hovannisian, one of the party’s nominees, said regarding Ramkavar-Azatakan: “An ideological rival has a greater value for us than competing with a featureless mass devoid of any ideology.”
Vice-Chairman of the Ramkavar-Azatakan Party Asatur Devletian, for his part, did not exclude a scenario in which the emerging cooperation with Dashnaktsutyun will lead to their support for the party’s candidate at the presidential election. “It is not ruled out, but there has been no discussion and there is no decision on that yet,” he said.
Devletian also said there is no decision on the unification of the Ramkavar-Azatakan structure operating in Armenia with former Karabakh defense minister Samvel Babayan’s Dashink party and Albert Bazeyan’s National Rebirth party.
“A common meeting is needed for Ramkavar-Azatakan to make any decision,” he said, adding that the party currently based outside Armenia plans to relocate its central headquarters to Yerevan in the future.
Both Ramkavar-Azatakan and Dashanktsutyun were founded in the late 19th century when Armenians lived under the Ottoman Empire. The two currently operate both in Armenia and in countries where the Armenian Diaspora is present.
In 1917, Dashnaktsutyun was instrumental in the creation of the short-lived first Republic of Armenia which fell to the Soviet Bolsheviks in 1920. The party established itself within Armenian Diaspora communities after its leadership was exiled by the communists.
Relations between Dashnaktsutyun and Ramkavar-Azatakan are known to have been cool outside Armenia during the years when Armenia was a Soviet republic stemming from differing attitudes towards the Soviet Union. The liberal Ramkavars strongly supported the then Armenian republic, while the socialist Dashnaks favored a tough anti-Soviet line.
After the fall of the USSR both parties reestablished their branches in Armenia.