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Opposition Party Denies Foul Play Against Dissident Member


Armenia -- Aram Manukian, the newly elected chairman of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement, at a news conference, 21July 2010.

Armenia -- Aram Manukian, the newly elected chairman of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement, at a news conference, 21July 2010.

A key party aligned with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Wednesday strongly denied stifling dissent within its ranks and ostracizing a prominent member critical of its de facto top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.


Karapet Rubinian resigned from the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) this week, accusing Ter-Petrosian of imposing his will on a party that governed Armenia from 1990-1998. Rubinian claimed that the ex-president pressured delegates not to elect him to the HHSh’s governing board at a weekend party congress. He called that a retribution for his criticism of the opposition alliance’s strategy of political struggle.

Aram Manukian, who was elected as board chairman after the congress, dismissed the allegations. “I really regret that statement made by Rubinian,” he told a news conference. “I just want to ask. Would Rubinian have made such a statement if he had been elected to the board?

“Was Rubinian unable to say all that at the congress? If Rubinian had disagreements with Ter-Petrosian … why didn’t he speak up at the congress?”

Manukian revealed that Rubinian, who had served as deputy parliament speaker throughout the 1990s, lacked only 30 votes in his bid for board membership. “Of all those members who were not elected [to the board,] he got the largest number of votes,” he said. “He lacked very few votes, and we would have been happy to see him join the board.”

“If there was a conspiracy to prevent him from getting elected, how come 240 or so HHSh delegates dared to vote for Rubinian?” added Manukian.

Armenia -- Opposition leader Aleksandr Arzumanian speaks at a news conference, 24Jun2010.
Rubinian, who has led an HAK task force campaigning for the release of jailed Ter-Petrosian loyalists, again declined a comment on Wednesday. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that he will answer Manukian’s “very good questions” next week.

Rubinian’s scandalous resignation prompted concern from Aleksandr Arzumanian, another veteran HHSh figure who served as foreign minister in 1996-1998 and managed Ter-Petrosian’s campaign in the 2008 presidential election. He said the HHSh leadership must investigate the former vice-speaker’s allegations and give “complete and convincing answers.”

“In his statement, Karapet Rubinian raised alarm, and I hope that the newly elected board will address those issues because it’s not just Karapet Rubinian who is talking about that,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL. “After all, one of the main specificities of the HHSh is that as a liberal party, we have always welcomed debate, dissent and a variety of views.”

“So I can’t accept any precedent of people being ostracized for expressing different views,” he said. “After all, I spent one and a half years in prison for expressing my views.”

Arzumanian also declined to explain his conspicuous absence from the HHSh congress. He said only that he did not attend it “for certain reasons.”

The congress convened one month after the party’s previous chairman, Ararat Zurabian, and his deputy, Khachatur Kokobelian, stepped down in still unclear circumstances. The two men were allegedly accused by Ter-Petrosian of secretly collaborating with the Armenian government.

The HAK leader, who maintains a strong influence on the former ruling party, gave more credence to that theory with his speech at the congress. He said the authorities “tried to exert influence within the HHSh and cause a rift between the party and the Armenian National Congress.”
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