The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party took a swipe at former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Wednesday, saying that it is seeking “hegemony” over other major opposition forces through foul play.
Top Zharangutyun representatives drew parallels between the HAK’s political strategy and the ruling Republican Party’s perceived attempts to keep a tight rein over its junior partners in Armenia’s governing coalition.
“Being one of the most important opposition forces, the HAK is essentially doing what we see in the government camp,” said Ruben Hakobian, the deputy chairman of the party led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian. He accused Ter-Petrosian’s bloc of spreading “slander” against Zharangutyun.
“The HAK says that Levon Ter-Petrosian is the only alternative to the existing president, that the HAK must be the only hegemonic force in the future parliament, and all those in the opposition camp that … won’t operate under the HAK’s tutelage are deemed beyond the opposition and given labels. That could have very dangerous consequences,” Hakobian told a news conference.
Both Hakobian and Zharangutyun’s parliamentary leader, Stepan Safarian, said this will only make it easier for President Serzh Sarkisian and his loyalists to retain control over Armenia’s parliament in the election due in May 2012.
“If things continue like this, the main pre-election conflict will be not between the opposition and the authority but within the authority and within the opposition,” warned Safarian.
HAK spokesman Arman Musinian dismissed these claims as “totally illogical.” “Let the society assess the veracity of such statements,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Musinian said the Ter-Petrosian-led alliance bringing together 18 mostly small opposition parties is ready to work together with any political group sharing its goals. “If this elementary strategy is difficult to understand, then I can only wish them a fruitful fight against that monopolization [of opposition activity,]” he scoffed.
The verbal attacks are another indication of a deepening rift between the two opposition forces. Zharangutyun backed Ter-Petrosian during the 2008 presidential race and the ensuing government crackdown on his opposition movement. Relations between the party and the HAK have substantially cooled since then.
In a July speech, Zharangutyun’s top leader, Raffi Hovannisian, stated that Ter-Petrosian, his presidential successor Robert Kocharian and President Sarkisian share responsibility for Armenia’s political and socioeconomic problems. Hovannisian also did not rule out his participation in the next presidential ballot due in 2013.