The Free Democrats, a recently formed opposition party represented in Armenia’s parliament, faced its first internal split on Friday with the resignation of eight party members at odds with its leadership.
The dissenters, among of them one of the party’s founders, Ararat Zurabian, were reticent about the reasons for their decision. One of them, Karen Karapetian, said the reasons are specified in a collective letter of resignation sent to the party board.
“If the party wants, if it really follows democratic values, then they can publicize that statement,” Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). None of the other dissenters agreed to comment.
According to Alexander Arzumanian, a leader of the Free Democrats, the eight members’ main objection related to the format of the party’s electoral alliance with another major opposition group, the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.
“The individuals leaving the party believe that it should have been an alliance of equals,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But this is a closed issue. The party board had already made a decision on it.”
The alliance in question took the form of Free Democrats being included on Zharangutyun’s list of election candidates, meaning that the two-party alliance was never formalized. The de facto bloc won five seats in Armenia’s 131-member parliament in the May 6 elections.
“We were waiting for the post-election processes to calm down to make sure that our statement is not exploited by anyone,” Karapetian said when asked about the timing of the resignation.
Arzumanian said he especially regrets Zurabian’s exit. “Given the fact that starting from the pre-election period Ararat stopped coming to the party and actively participating in its activities along with other departing board members, this decision was probably inevitable,” he said, adding that he wishes his “comrades” success in their further political activities.
Both Arzumanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister from 1996-1998, and Zurabian are former associates of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, having actively taken part in his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid. The two men as well as dozens of other oppositionists set up the Free Democrats last year after splitting from Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance.