By Anna Saghabalian
A prominent opposition politician confirmed on Friday that he has left Stepan Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) in protest against its decision to support Levon Ter-Petrosian’s presidential candidacy.
The HZhK, which remains one of Armenia’s largest opposition groups despite its extremely poor showing in the May 2007 parliamentary elections, officially decided to endorse Ter-Petrosian’s presidential bid in November. The move followed heated debates within the party’s leadership. Some members of its governing body reportedly insisted that Demirchian, who was President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger in the last presidential election, again run for president.
Stepan Zakarian, a senior HZhK member and former parliament deputy, said he terminated his decade-long membership in the party late last month because of his highly negative assessment of Ter-Petrosian’s track record in power. He blamed the former president for government abuses and socioeconomic hardship that marred his rule from 1991-1998.
“I hold Levon Ter-Petrosian primarily responsible not so much for the hardship as the people’s loss of faith,” Zakarian told RFE/RL.
“This is exactly what Robert Kocharian has said [of Ter-Petrosian,]” countered Grigor Harutiunian, the number two figure in the HZhK leadership. “All I can say is that I feel sorry for that.”
Harutiunian denied Zakarian’s claim that Karen Demirchian, Stepan’s late father and Armenia’s popular Soviet-era leader who founded the HZhK in 1998, was highly critical of Ter-Petrosian. He said the HZhK decided to throw its weight behind Ter-Petrosian because it believes the latter is capable of effecting regime change in the country.
“Our collective view is that the best way to get rid of this regime is the one chosen by the party,” said Harutiunian.
Zakarian insisted, however, that neither Ter-Petrosian, nor any other opposition candidate stands a chance to defeat Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian in next month’s presidential election. He said the Armenian opposition lost the fight for power when it failed to join forces ahead of the May elections, which Sarkisian’s Republican Party won by a landslide.
(Photolur photo: Zakarian, right, and Demirchian pictured during a parliament session.)