By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Two major Armenian parties that challenged Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian in the February 19 presidential election defended on Thursday their decision to join a new coalition government to be formed by the president-elect next month.
During the election campaign the presidential candidates of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir Party strongly criticized and blamed the government for socioeconomic and other problems facing the country. Orinats Yerkir’s Artur Baghdasarian was particularly scathing in attacking the government and Sarkisian in particular.
According to Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, his party eventually agreed to cut a new power-sharing deal with Sarkisian because the latter committed himself to implementing sweeping political and economic reforms. Rustamian pointed to ambitious goals which he, Sarkisian, Baghdasarian and Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian set in a joint declaration signed last week.
The four-party declaration called for the strengthening of the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights protection, a “substantial increase in public trust in electoral processes,” and a “comprehensive and effective fight against corruption.” Its signatories also pledged to significantly boost living standards in Armenia through job creation and improved business competition.
Rustamian also cited the need to meet what he called new security challenges facing Armenia since the March 1 unrest in Yerevan. “A new situation has emerged since March 1,” he told RFE/RL. “Security is now the top priority. There are now threats to both internal and external stability.”
Heghine Bisharian, the number two figure in the Orinats Yerkir leadership, also defended Baghdasarian’s decision to return to a government in which his party was already represented from 2003-2006. “You have to be in government in order to implement pre-election programs,” she said.
Bisharian insisted that the vast majority of about 260,000 Armenians who, according to official election results, voted for Baghdasarian support the coalition accord. Rustamian was likewise confident that the deal will not lose Dashnaktsutyun popular support. “Our voters have reason to be particularly satisfied with our behavior because we have followed the same line both during the pre-election period and now,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Rustamian, left, Sarkisian and Baghdasarian sign the coalition accord on March 21.)