Another prominent member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) distanced himself on Friday from the latest election-related overtures made by a leader of the opposition bloc to Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
Hrant Bagratian said Levon Zurabian, a close associate of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, expressed his personal opinion when he said late last month that the two political groups should join forces to unseat President Serzh Sarkisian in the upcoming presidential election.
Zurabian, who leads the HAK’s parliamentary faction, said Tsarukian and his reputed political patron, former President Robert Kocharian, will be forced to leave the political arena and lose their “vast financial resources” if Sarkisian wins reelection. The BHK should therefore be interested in cooperating with Ter-Petrosian’s bloc, Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken HAK parliamentarian and activist, was quick to state that Zurabian’s comments did not reflect the bloc’s official position. Pashinian argued that the HAK leadership has so far made no decisions on the presidential election and cooperation with the BHK in particular.
“We have not discussed any decision on the BHK or any other party,” agreed Bagratian. “I haven’t been invited to such discussions.”
“In my opinion, some people are hurrying,” he added in a clear jibe at Zurabian.
Unlike Pashinian, Bagratian, who served as prime minister from 1993-1996, stopped short of openly rejecting the idea of an electoral alliance between the HAK and the BHK. But he did express his unease over growing talk of such a deal.
“On more than one occasion, I have asked [HAK leaders,] ‘What’s the deal with the BHK? Please explain,’” he said. “They have always soothed me … I was told that there is nothing particularly important going on and that there are only tactical issues.
“But tactics aside, I can see that when many people start talking they start from the BHK. I don’t exclude that [this talk] is baseless. But if it is indeed baseless, we will again find ourselves in a stupid situation.”
Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly advocated close cooperation with the BHK over the past year amid Tsarukian’s growing tensions with Sarkisian, which led to his party’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition in June. Some of his prominent loyalists, including a major opposition party, quit the HAK earlier this year in protest against this stance.
The dissenters say that the BHK was part of Armenia’s government until recently and therefore cannot be interested in the country’s democratization. They also point to Tsarukian’s’ reputedly close ties to Kocharian, the man who ordered a deadly crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election.