Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian launched on Thursday a fresh scathing attack on the head of a coalition of Europe’s leading conservative parties who strongly supports Armenia’s government.
Hovannisian criticized European People’s Party (EPP) President Wilfried Martens after being informed that he cannot take part in the upcoming EPP summit in Vienna.
Both Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party and President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) are affiliated with the pan-European grouping.
In a letter to Hovannisian sent last week, Martens said that only the leaders of those EPP parties that are in government will be invited to the June 20 summit. “Therefore, in the case of Armenia, Armenian President and leader of the Republican Party of Armenia Serzh Sarkisian, who was reelected as the country’s Head of State, is the invitee to the EPP Summits,” he wrote. “The RPA (HHK) is a loyal partner of the EPP and we have full confidence in him and his leadership.”
In his written reply released by Zharangutyun, Hovannisian said he never asked the EPP leadership to allow him to attend the gathering. “I don’t know to what or to whom you are replying in your letter of June 3,” he said.
“I can state for the record that I certainly made no further request of you which requires official interpretation of EPP values and virtues. They already have been breached, and under your watch,” Hovannisian charged.
Hovannisian, who was the main opposition candidate in Armenia’s February 2013 presidential election, clearly referred to the official vote results that gave victory to Sarkisian. The EPP leader congratulated Sarkisian and expressed confidence that “the country’s democratization process will be further enhanced.”
The Zharangutyun leader, who considers himself the rightful election winner, strongly condemned that congratulation during post-election demonstrations organized by him in Yerevan. He threatened to pull Zharangutyun out of the EPP if the latter does not disavow its leader’s stance.
Stepan Safarian, a senior Zharangutyun figure, said on Thursday that the party is currently not considering quitting the EPP because it believes Martens’s views on Armenia are not shared by European center-right parties. “Zharangutyun has links with EPP member parties, rather than the EPP leadership,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Martens already raised eyebrows in Armenian opposition circles with strong support for Sarkisian and the ruling HHK voiced during last year’s parliamentary elections. The HHK won the May 2012 polls amid opposition allegations of vote rigging. Martens predicted that victory in a video address to an HHK congress held in March 2012. “Long live the Republican Party,” he declared at the time.