Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Tuesday warned Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) not to bow to what he described as government pressure and again stressed the importance of cooperating with the country’s second largest parliamentary force.
In an apparent reference to criminal proceedings launched against former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Ter-Petrosian claimed that President Serzh Sarkisian is now trying to turn the BHK into an “obedient servant.”
“Any force aspiring to become a serious political factor, in this case Prosperous Armenia, must be able to withstand those pressures and not be afraid of them,” he told supporters rallying in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
“If Prosperous Armenia pledges loyalty to Serzh Sarkisian after all this, then that will spell its end as a political factor. Therefore, the only guarantee of its existence and political future is its determination to become real opposition,” added the leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Ter-Petrosian insisted at the same time that the BHK can be considered an opposition force because it is no longer part of Armenia’s governing coalition. He said Tsarukian’s withdrawal from the coalition has “weakened” the Sarkisian administration.
The HAK leader began reaching out to the BHK last fall amid signs of a deepening rift between Sarkisian and Tsarukian, which some observers attributed to former President Robert Kocharian’s perceived desire to return to active politics. Those overtures have been openly criticized by some opposition parties aligned in the HAK as well as other opposition forces. Two of those parties pulled out of Ter-Petrosian’s opposition alliance last month.
The opposition critics say that cooperating with the BHK is tantamount to helping Kocharian, who remains the number one hate figure for many Ter-Petrosian supporters. They have also repeatedly questioned Tsarukian’s opposition credentials, saying that the tycoon will eventually cut new deals with the government.
Ter-Petrosian denounced that criticism as “demagogy,” saying that it is aimed at “pushing the BHK back into Serzh Sarkisian’s embrace.” He also again dismissed a widely held belief that BHK actions are dictated by Kocharian.
Ter-Petrosian went on to assure supporters that the BHK, the HAK and two other opposition parties represented in the recently elected National Assembly will continue to jointly challenge the government on the parliament floor. He emphasized the fact that together they control 54 of the 131 parliament seats.