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Ruling Party Leader Hails ‘Positive’ Change In Opposition Stance


Armenia -- Razmik Zohrabian, one of the leaders of the ruling HHK in a press conference. 05Oct2009

Armenia -- Razmik Zohrabian, one of the leaders of the ruling HHK in a press conference. 05Oct2009

A leading member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) claimed on Monday that the country’s largest opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has backed further away from confrontation with the government.

Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, pointed to Ter-Petrosian’s speech at a recent congress of one of the parties aligned with his Armenian National Congress (HAK). He said it marked a “positive” shift in the opposition bloc’s political strategy.

In his June 17 speech, Ter-Petrosian avoided customary attacks on the Armenian authorities and focused instead on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkish-Armenian relations. He said that Armenia can not have sustainable development without making peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

This prompted stern rebukes from the leaders of other major political groups, including some senior HHK figures. One of them, Samvel Nikoyan, last week accused the opposition leader of demoralizing the nation.

Zohrabian was far more positive about Ter-Petrosian’s speech. “I think Levon Ter-Petrosian has chosen the path of law and constitutional order, and I think that will lead to some success,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

“Naturally, I’m not predicting that they will come to power. But they will at least meet with, so to speak, positive signals, protection from the society and the authorities,” said Zohrabian.

Ter-Petrosian has pursued a cautious strategy of political struggle since his failed bid to return to power in the February 2008 and deadly street violence in Yerevan that followed it. His alliance has avoided holding anti-government rallies frequently.

The HAK’s governing board led by Ter-Petrosian decided last week to again rally supporters in the capital on September 17. Some opposition figure said it will mark the start of a new campaign of street protests against the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian.

Zohrabian expressed hope that the upcoming rally will be “within the bounds of law.” He also urged the HAK to stop campaigning for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.

The holding of snap polls has been the key HAK objective ever since it was cobbled together by Ter-Petrosian two years ago. Suren Sureniants, a prominent member of the opposition bloc, said on Monday that despite failing to achieve leadership change in Armenia, the HAK has established itself as a key political force.

“The Congress has proved that it is an agenda-setter in Armenia’s political life and many issues top the political agenda because of the Congress’s activities, rallies and statements,” Sureniants told RFE/RL.

Sureniants noted at the same time that the HAK has still a long way to go to become “an instrument of a more long-term political struggle.” He argued that Ter-Petrosian remains the main factor uniting two dozen opposition parties making up the bloc.
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