Aram Sarkisian, a prominent opposition politician, on Friday renounced his seat in the newly elected parliament and confirmed that his Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party could leave the Armenian National Congress (HAK) because of disagreements with the opposition bloc’s leadership.
Sarkisian’s name was third on the list of the HAK’s candidates in the May 6 parliamentary elections. The bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian won seven seats in the 131-member National Assembly.
“To all those persons who are honestly going to the National Assembly in hopes of changing something I wish success, and I do not want to restrain them with my realistic and pragmatic approaches and my presence,” Sarkisian told a news conference.
Sarkisian, whose party has been a key member of the HAK, confirmed media reports about his deepening differences with Ter-Petrosian and members of the ex-president’s entourage. He said they emerged in the spring of 2011 and centered on domestic and foreign policy issues.
In particular, he said, Hanrapetutyun favored more radical actions aimed at achieving “regime change” before the latest elections. The party known for its radical anti-government stance also opposed close cooperation with Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), he added.
The HAK embarked on a fresh campaign of anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan in February 2011, threatening to take the kind of actions that brought down the ruling regimes in several Arab states. Ter-Petrosian subsequently toned down his rhetoric after securing several government concessions. The HAK went on to engage last summer in a dialogue with Armenia’s governing coalition which eventually ended in failure.
First signs of a rift between Hanrapetutyun and Ter-Petrosian emerged last February as the HAK leadership began drawing up the bloc’s electoral slate. Party activists were reportedly unhappy with the fact that Sarkisian is the only Hanrapetutyun figure high on the list.
Sarkisian, who served as Armenia’s prime minister from 1999-2000, on Friday pointedly declined to rule out the possibility of Hanrapetutyun leaving the HAK altogether. He said he and his close associates will clarify their plans “soon.”
According to Sarkisian, the party has remained part of the HAK because it did not want to lose Ter-Petrosian’s bloc any votes in the May 6 vote. “Now that that process is over, we are free to express our views,” the oppositionist said.
The HAK’s central office coordinator Levon Zurabian refused to comment on the possibility of Hanrapetutyun’s exit from the alliance. But he did take issue with other statements made by Sarkisian.
“Everyone within the Congress wanted to see regime change before the regular elections,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He also said that none of about two dozen opposition groups aligned in the HAK objected to cooperating with the BHK on the proper conduct of the parliamentary elections.