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By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) is seeking to boost its presence in Armenia’s government as a result of its alliance with Prime Minister and President-elect Serzh Sarkisian, a leader of the nationalist party said on Wednesday.

Dashnaktsutyun is represented in Sarkisian’s current, outgoing, cabinet by three ministers who are in charge of social affairs, education and agriculture.

“In order to play a larger role, we want to be present in more influential positions,” Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of the party’s worldwide Bureau, told RFE/RL in an interview. He said the party is specifically interested in having its members run the Armenian military, security bodies or other major government agencies dealing with finance and economics.

Dashnaktsutyun had hoped to get hold of some of these positions as a result of the May 2007 parliamentary elections. But those hopes were dashed by the landslide victory in the polls of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).

Dashnaktsutyun now seems to be in a stronger position to get more influential ministerial portfolios, although fared even more poorly in the February 19 presidential election. Its presidential candidate, Vahan Hovannisian, won only 6.1 percent of the vote, according to official results. Observers believe that Sarkisian sorely needs Dashnaktsutyun’s continued presence in government to legitimize his controversial election win in the face of continuing fraud allegations made by his main challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Dashnaktsutyun and the Orinats Yerkir Party, which also challenged Sarkisian in the presidential election, accepted the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s victory despite alleging vote irregularities. The two parties as well as the Prosperous Armenia Party signed a power-sharing agreement with Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) last month.

According to Markarian, the four parties are continuing to discuss the composition of Sarkisian’s new cabinet and have not reached agreement yet. He said the incoming government’s ability to achieve its declared goals is important for Dashnaktsutyun than the question of which ministerial posts it will get.

In a joint March declaration, the four parties pledged to democratize Armenia’s political system, strengthen of the rule of law, and launch a “comprehensive and effective fight against corruption.”

Like other Dashnaktsutyun leaders, Markarian denied any contradiction between his party’s pre-election calls for Armenians to reject their current and former leaders and its eventual decision to cut a deal with Sarkisian. He said Dashnaktsutyun considers that deal an opportunity to restore political stability and bring about positive change in the country. “We can always move into opposition if we fail,” he argued.

The Iranian-born politician also defended the suppression of Ter-Petrosian’s post-election demonstrations, saying that they were part of a foreign plot to stage a pro-Western “color revolution” in Armenia. He claimed that unspecified external forces wanted to thereby weaken the country. “A humbled and weakened state is fertile ground for external interference,” said Markarian.

(Photolur photo)
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