A longtime member of an Armenian opposition party linked to former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has been expelled from its ranks for supporting a dissident opposition leader running for president.
Henrik Avagian, a resident of the southern town of Artashat, has been affiliated with the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party ever since it was founded by Ter-Petrosian in 1989. The HHSh governed the country from 1990-1998 and is currently a key member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance led by the ex-president.
Avagian said on Wednesday that he irked the HHSh leadership with his decision to manage the Artashat campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Hrant Bagratian, a prominent HAK figure who has fallen out with Ter-Petrosian and members of his inner circle.
Avagian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the expulsion was approved by the governing council of the HHSh branch in Artashat at a meeting on Saturday. He said council members pointed to the HAK’s decision not to field or support any presidential candidates. Some of them said Avagian would not have been punished had he supported an opposition candidate other than Bagratian, he claimed.
“I said that the HAK consists of different political forces and their leaders … and not just Levon Zurabian. How can Levon Zurabian decide that anyone supporting Hrant Bagratian must be ousted?” Avagian said, referring to Ter-Petrosian’s closest associate coordinating the opposition bloc’s day-to-day activities.
Bagratian, who leads a small opposition parties, is one of several prominent HAK members who have publicly disagreed with Ter-Petrosian’s electoral strategy in recent months. Bagratian’s decision to run for president in defiance of the HAK’s de facto election boycott underscored that discord.
The HHSh chairman, Aram Manukian, refused to comment on Avagian’s claims when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Another HHSh leader, Vahagn Hayotsian, promised to give explanations after visiting Artashat.
A spokeswoman for the Bagratian campaign also declined a comment.