President Serzh Sarkisian attended on Monday a public event organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) despite the opposition party’s increasingly strong criticism of his policies.
Sarkisian was among hundreds of dignitaries present at the celebration of the 120th anniversary of Dashnaktsutyun’s establishment at Yerevan’s Opera House. He was seated next to Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of the nationalist party’s worldwide governing Bureau.
Dashnaktsutyun challenged Sarkisian in the February 2008 presidential election but chose to join a coalition government formed by him afterwards. It pulled out of the government in April 2009 in protest against his controversial policy of rapprochement with Turkey.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders have since increasingly toughened their criticism of the Armenian leadership. They announced in September the start of nationwide anti-government protests which they said will be aimed at accelerating “regime change” in the country.
Armen Rustamian, another Dashnaktsutyun leader, deplored “widespread corruption and inept governance” last week. He said Armenia is now controlled by a “privileged class” of wealthy government-linked citizens.
Still, while attacking the government, the party has so far been careful not to campaign for the president’s resignation and the conduct of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
Sarkisian’s presence at the celebration is bound to be exploited by other, more radical opposition groups, notably the Armenian National Congress (HAK), questioning Dashnaktsutyun’s opposition credentials.
Aram Manukian, a senior member of the HAK, said earlier on Monday that he does not consider Dashnaktsutyun an opposition party because it is “playing dual games” and secretly collaborating with the authorities.