The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) reacted on Wednesday cautiously to former President Robert Kocharian’s thinly veiled criticism of the Armenian government’s response to the global economic crisis.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman, told RFE/RL that any politically correct criticism is “acceptable” to the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian. “And Kocharian’s criticism was within the bounds of correctness,” he said.
In an interview with the Mediamax news agency released on Tuesday, Kocharian rejected a widespread view, shared by pro-government politicians, that the Armenian economy contracted sharply last year because it had grown too dependent on the once booming construction sector. He insisted that the construction boom, which came to an end in late 2008, was driven by objective factors.
Kocharian claimed that the government could have averted the 2009 slump in construction had it quickly moved to sustain “huge” demand in new housing and office space. He also said Armenia had boasted much better macroeconomic indicators during his 1998-2008 presidency.
Sharmazanov said the HHK also deserves credit for that, arguing that its former leader, the late Andranik Markarian, was prime minister during much of the Kocharian presidency. “The Republican Party and Robert Kocharian were allies for ten years and took many positive steps for the country,” he said.
Kocharian’s remarks were endorsed by a senior member of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s main junior partner in the governing coalition. “Regardless of the purpose and target of the issues raised in the interview, I can say I felt good when reading this interview because we have similar approaches,” Vartan Bostanjian told RFE/RL.
The BHK’s top leader, Gagik Tsarukian, is thought to be close to Kocharian. Tsarukian has recently slammed a government minister affiliated with the HHK for claiming that Armenia has already emerged from the recession.