Yet another prominent member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) announced on Thursday his decision to leave the opposition alliance because of policy differences with its leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Davit Shahnazarian, who held key positions in the government in the early 1990s, said he effectively ended his membership of the HAK in the run-up to the May 6 parliamentary elections. “I left the HAK’s Central Office before the elections, in March, and discontinued my political activities in the HAK altogether,” Shahnazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
Asked about reasons for the move, he said, “Let’s not talk about that for now.” Shahnazarian did indicate, though, his strong disagreement with the HAK leadership’s pre-election decision to cooperate with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), which was a key member of Armenia’s governing coalition until last month.
The BHK, which is led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian, quit the coalition after finishing second in the elections controversially won by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Tsarukian’s party challenged the legitimacy of the official vote results together with the HAK and another major opposition force, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
“As a result of the elections, Armenia’s political system has completely changed,” said Shahnazarian. “Whereas before the elections Armenia had a bipolar political system -- the government on one side and the HAK on the other -- we now have a change in the opposition pole and Prosperous Armenia now occupies that place.”
Shahnazarian went on to imply that by collaborating with the BHK Ter-Petrosian’s bloc has only strengthened former President Robert Kocharian, who is widely regarded as Tsarukian’s political patron.
“As a result of these elections, political responsibility has been completely taken away from Kocharian’s regime, at least in the foreign policy sense,” he said. “So in essence, the choice today is between the current authorities, which want to preserve the status quo, and the former regime represented by Prosperous Armenia.”
The HAK-BHK cooperation was apparently the main reason why the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, a key member of the HAK, quit the bloc in the wake of the May elections. Ashot Zakarian, a senior Hanrapetutyun member, accused that the HAK leadership of “helping to pave the way for Robert Kocharian’s return to power.”
Ter-Petrosian dismissed such claims as “demagogy” at a June 26 rally in Yerevan. He again assured supporters that BHK actions are not dictated by Kocharian.
Accordingly, Ter-Petrosian, whose son is married to Shahnazarian’s daughter, strongly defended continued cooperation with the BHK. He said Tsarukian’s withdrawal from the government has weakened Sarkisian and the HAK should capitalize on that.