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Armenian Ruling Party Downplays Ex-President’s Concerns


Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (C) presides over a congress of his Republican Party of Armenia on November 26, 2009.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (C) presides over a congress of his Republican Party of Armenia on November 26, 2009.

A senior representative of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) downplayed on Wednesday a thinly veiled criticism of President Serzh Sarkisian voiced by his predecessor Robert Kocharian.


In an interview with the Mediamax news agency published on Monday, Kocharian expressed concern about possible consequences of the Sarkisian administration’s rapprochement with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). He also said that the economic situation in the country has significantly worsened under the current Armenian president.

Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, said it is only natural for a former head of state to comment on political developments. “I didn’t see any spontaneous or sensational approaches which people try to find in the text [of Kocharian’s interview,]” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I think those who politicize his words, try to analyze them hurry a little.”

But Sahakian, who also heads his party’s parliamentary faction, did take issue with Kocharian’s assessment of the economic situation. “If he said that directly, I don’t agree with that,” he said.

Asked about the timing of the interview, Sahakian said, “Elections are coming up and I think substantial changes are taking place in the political landscape. I don’t think the second president can be indifferent to realities.”

A large part of Kocharian’s interview was devoted to the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, which left ten people dead. The ex-president defended his decision to order troops into the Armenian capital and suppress non-stop protests staged by HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian. He stressed that he made that decision after “consulting” with Sarkisian, who was then prime minister.

Opposition politicians and some independent commentators say Kocharian thus exposed his concerns about Sarkisian’s recent decision to order a renewed investigation into the unrest, which has been demanded by the HAK. They claim he is worried that investigators may hold him responsible for the bloodshed.

“I don’t think it’s an attempt to dodge responsibility [for those events] because if something happens in the country, responsibility always falls upon its incumbent authorities,” said Sahakian.

Sahakian insisted that the Armenian government’s dialogue with the HAK carries no risks for Kocharian. “There is no factor that should personally worry Robert Kocharian,” he said.

Heghine Bisharian, deputy chairwoman of the Orinats Yerkir Party, a junior partner in Armenia’s three-party governing coalition, said Kocharian’s statements will have no impact on the course of that dialogue.

“I don’t want to comment on what he said. But I partly agree and partly disagree with that,” Bisharian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. She refused to elaborate.

The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the other, more influential coalition partner, declined to comment on Kocharian’s interview. The BHK is led by Gagik Tsarukian, a millionaire businessman believed to be close to Kocharian.
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