The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party stepped up on Monday verbal attacks on other major political groups that have agreed to join forces with the stated aim of preventing serious fraud in next month’s parliamentary elections.
Top representatives of a Zharangutyun-led electoral bloc condemned what they described as growing cooperation between the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a member of the ruling coalition. They said the BHK has agreed to put into practice a dubious “scenario” drawn up by HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, claimed that Ter-Petrosian is now keen to turn the BHK into the most powerful government faction in the hope of earning his alliance serious political dividends. “I can’t say what enticed Prosperous Armenia to realize the HAK scenario,” he told a news conference. “But I don’t think it has a serious chance of success.”
Ter-Petrosian has sought to capitalize in recent months on growing tensions between the BHK and President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) despite BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s reputed ties with former President Robert Kocharian. The HAK leader said last week that the apparent rift within the ruling coalition will have “very important” implications for the outcome of the May 6 elections.
Earlier this month, the HAK, the BHK, Zharangutyun and another major opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), agreed to set up a joint campaign center tasked with countering possible attempts to rig the vote. Zharangutyun withdrew from the unprecedented structure last week, demanding that Tsarukian personally sign a declaration on its creation and even leave the ruling coalition.
Hakobian claimed that both the HHK and the BHK are already engaged in vote buying and other “illicit activities.” Therefore, he said, the multi-party center would only “imitate” a fight against fraud.
Aleksandr Arzumanian, a leader of the Free Democrats party allied to Zharangutyun, cited in that regard a February 2011 declaration that was signed by Sarkisian, Tsarukian and Artur Baghdasarian of Orinats Yerkir, the third coalition party.
The declaration committed the coalition parties to supporting Sarkisian’s candidacy in the 2013 presidential election. It also said that they will not challenge each other in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
However, Tsarukian called the document’s validity into question last September when he pointedly declined to reaffirm support for Sarkisian’s reelection plans.
A senior aide to Tsarukian dismissed the Zharangutyun claims later on Monday. Naira Zohrabian said the party led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian simply needs an excuse to justify its pull out of the Inter-Party Center for the Oversight of the Elections.
“This is not serious, to say the least,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Prosperous Armenia has made no shadowy deals with any other political force. There is only one agreement: to facilitate the free and fair course of the elections with joint efforts.”
“If Zharangutyun needs to justify its retreat with some fabricated and unserious excuses, I don’t think the public will take them at face value,” she said.