A key opposition party aligned in Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) confirmed on Tuesday that 26 members of its youth wing have resigned for what it described as unclear reasons.
Aram Manukian, the chairman of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), said none of them has given a political or any other reason for their decision. “All resignation letters had the same content and were sent on the same day,” he told a news conference. “I have spoken to many of them. None of them gave a reason.”
Manukian downplayed the resignations, saying that some of these are aged 35 and older, while others have been drafted into the Armenian army. “The hardcore, which keeps fighting and is used to fighting in the streets and getting beaten up, is still there,” he said.
Among those who tendered the resignations is Karen Karapetian, the leader of the HHSh’s youth wing. Karapetian, who turned 36 recently, refused to explain his motives, saying only that they were political.
“All of my steps have been political,” Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “The resignation of the leader of a party’s youth wing can’t be apolitical.” He also made clear that he did not formally end his membership in the party that governed Armenia from 1990-1998.
Some media reports have claimed that the resignations were triggered by the choice of HHSh delegates at an international forum of the youth organizations of liberal parties taking place in Beirut. Most of the delegates are children of HHSh leaders, according to those reports.
Manukian dismissed the claims as “slander.” Karapetian did not deny them, however.
The HHSh was already thrust into turmoil this July after the resignation of its previous chairman, Ararat Zurabian, and his deputy Khachatur Kokobelian. The two men were reportedly suspected by HAK leaders of secretly collaborating with the authorities. Ter-Petrosian, who maintains a strong influence on the once powerful party, was rumored to have personally told them to quit.
An emergency congress of the HHSh held at the time formed a new party board that appointed Manukian as its chairman. The congress was marred by allegations of foul play made by one of the party’s prominent members, Karapet Rubinian.
The former deputy parliament speaker quit the party in protest, accusing Ter-Petrosian of stifling dissent. The HHSh leadership strongly denied the accusations.