The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its former coalition partner, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), have launched fresh verbal attacks on each other ahead of mayoral elections in Yerevan in which they are expected to be the main contenders.
Senior HHK and BHK lawmakers on Thursday followed up on a war of words between the youth wings of the two parties that broke out recently on online social networks. Young HHK figures reacted furiously to renewed harsh criticism of the Armenian government voiced by their former allies.
“They should have criticized the government and spoken of problems when they were part of the coalition,” said Hovannes Sahakian, the secretary of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, the largest in the National Assembly.
Sahakian singled out former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, a senior BHK member, for criticism. “A minister who grew and prospered in the government for ten years is now … criticizing the government,” he told reporters. “I can’t understand this. A person must behave in a more dignified way, at least by admitting his mistakes.”
Tigran Urikhanian, a parliament deputy and the chief BHK spokesman, lambasted the ruling party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian at a virtually simultaneous news conference. “What is happening is not a struggle but untactful and incorrect reactions from some HHK representatives to questions raised by BHK deputies in the form of figures and legal formulations,” he said.
“We are trying to get answers to questions that are circulated by the media and preoccupy the public,” added Urikhanian.
Relations between the two coalition partners began worsening in late 2011 amid BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s reluctance to voice support for Sarkisian’s reelection plans. The discord culminated in the BHK’s withdrawal from Sarkisian’s coalition government in June 2012.
In the following months Tsarukian was widely expected to challenge the incumbent in the February 2013 presidential election. However, the tycoon unexpectedly withdrew from the presidential race in December for still unclear reasons.
The BHK, which has the second largest parliamentary faction, again stepped up its criticism of the government after the disputed presidential ballot in an apparent preparation for the May 5 municipal elections in Yerevan. Urikhanian claimed that Tsarukian’s party has “very good chances” of winning the polls.
Sahakian, for his part, said that the ruling HHK expects to retain control over the majority of seats in Yerevan’s municipal council and thus re-install Mayor Taron Markarian for a four-year term.