A key opposition party aligned in the Armenian National Congress (HAK) has chosen a new leadership following the resignation of its two top members who reportedly disagreed with HAK leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), which was Armenia’s ruling party from 1990-1998, held an emergency congress at the weekend one month after its chairman, Ararat Zurabian, and his deputy, Khachatur Kokobelian, stepped down in still unclear circumstances.
Unconfirmed reports said both Zurabian and especially Kokobelian were suspected by HAK leaders of secretly collaborating with the authorities. Ter-Petrosian, who maintains a strong influence on the former ruling party, was rumored to have personally told them to resign from the HHSh leadership. Ter-Petrosian gave far more weight to this theory in his speech at the congress.
“The reality is that the Armenian authorities have tried in recent months to exert influence within the HHSh and cause a rift between the party and the Armenian National Congress,” he said. “But thanks to the vigilance of the majority of HHSh board members, the subversion was exposed on time and the threat of the split within the Congress was completely neutralized.”
The HAK leader did not elaborate. His comments clearly took many of about 600 congress delegates by surprise. They did not expect him to bring up the matter publicly.
The delegates went on to elect a new HHSh board, which in turn chose Aram Manukian, a veteran party figure, as its chairman.
Zurabian, who attended the congress but did not make any statements, was also elected to the new board. Kokobelian was conspicuously absent from the gathering.
Also reelected as board member was Vano Siradeghian, a former interior minister and HHSh chairman who fled Armenia in 2000 to avoid arrest on murder charges. The delegates greeted the nomination of Siradeghian’s candidacy with a standing ovation.
In a resolution adopted by the congress, the HHSh reaffirmed its loyalty to the opposition alliance formed by Ter-Petrosian following the February 2008 presidential election. It said it will continue to campaign with the HAK for leadership change in Armenia.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday, Manukian said the holding of snap presidential and parliamentary elections remains the HHSh’s top priority.