President Serzh Sarkisian has appointed a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a party highly critical of his foreign policy, as Armenia’s ambassador to Germany.
Vahan Hovannisian’s appointment, which raises questions about Dashnaktsutyun’s opposition credentials, was announced by Sarkisian’s office over the weekend. Another senior Dashnaktsutyun figure, Hrayr Karapetian, was named Armenian consul general in Saint Petersburg, Russia in November. The presidential administration did not comment on either appointment.
The development has been widely anticipated in the last several months. Hovannisian confirmed in early September that he has accepted Sarkisian’s offer to take up an ambassadorial position abroad. He insisted that Dashnaktsutyun will remain in opposition to the Sarkisian administration despite agreeing to his impending appointment. He denied that the party cut secret power-sharing deals with the Armenian government.
Hovannisian argued that Dashnaktsutyun “has always cooperated with the Armenian authorities on all those foreign policy issues where joint work has promised greater results in terms of protecting Armenian interests.”
Analysts pointed out, however, that foreign policy was the reason why Dashnaktsutyun pulled out of Armenia’s governing coalition in 2009 in the first place. The nationalist party, which is particularly influential in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, strongly objected to Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey. It repeatedly demanded Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s resignation in the following months.
Accordingly, some media commentators have portrayed Hovannisian’s imminent appointment as further proof that the party retained links with the Armenian authorities after quitting the government. Dashnaktsutyun representatives deny this.
Hovannisian, 57, challenged Sarkisian in the disputed presidential election of February 2008. Official results showed him winning over 6 percent of the vote. It is not yet clear whether he will resign from Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide governing body, the Bureau, after the appointment.