The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party of Raffi Hovannisian on Friday officially condemned as Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) which was formalized by President Serzh Sarkisian on October 10.
Zharangutyun claimed that membership in the Russian-led bloc will pose a “most serious threat” to Armenia’s independence and put at risk continued Armenian control over Nagorno-Karabakh. It said Sarkisian had no mandate to sign an “unconstitutional” accession treaty with his Russian, Kazakh and Belarusian counterparts at an EEU summit in Minsk.
“The deplorable efforts of the republic’s regime to compel Armenia’s accession to the EEU … aim merely to maneuver and perpetuate his illegitimate personal power obtained through falsification of the past elections,” charged the statement. “It is quite clear that Mr. Sarkisian, who has usurped power through unjust elections, is not authorized to sign any agreement or undertake any obligation on behalf of the people of Armenia.”
Hovannisian was the main opposition candidate in the February 2013 ballot cited by the statement. He refuses to accept the official vote results that gave Sarkisian a second term.
Zharangutyun has strongly opposed Sarkisian’s intention to make Armenia part of Russia’s union with Belarus and Kazakhstan ever since it was announced in September 2013. Like many Armenian civic groups, it believes that EEU membership will limit Armenia’s sovereignty and earn it no major benefits in return.
“It is evident that Armenia stands not so much as an equal partner [in the EEU] but as a ‘poor cousin’ or instrument to exert influence upon others. And in this case, the minimum price to be paid to Azerbaijan is Artsakh (Karabakh),” the read statement. It appeared to refer to speculation that Russia may lure Azerbaijan into the EEU with a promise to help it regain control over the disputed territory.
Sarkisian and his political allies insist that joining the Russian-led alliance will on the contrary bolster the Russian-Armenian rapport and make it even harder for Baku to reconquer Karabakh.
The Zharangutyun statement underscored its serious differences on the issue with two other major opposition parties, with which Hovannisian’s party teamed up recently to campaign for Sarkisian’s ouster. Neither the Armenian National Congress (HAK) of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian nor Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has publicly objected to membership in the EEU.
Ter-Petrosian launched yet another scathing attack on Armenian opponents of that membership during an anti-government rally that was held by the three opposition parties in Yerevan on October 10. He also stressed that the geopolitical issue is not on the agenda of their joint struggle.
With Hovannisian not available for comment on Friday, it was not clear whether the strongly worded statement means that Zharangutyun is ready to pull out of the opposition alliance. Some senior Zharangutyun members have openly questioned their party’s cooperation with the BHK and the HAK. One of them, Zaruhi Postanjian, said that Ter-Petrosian’s and Tsarukian’s parties should “leave the arena” if they stick to their stance on the EEU.
“I disagree with Mr. Ter-Petrosian because if it’s a popular movement, then it cannot agree to the possibility of customs posts on Armenia’s border with Artsakh,” Postanjian said, referring to one potential consequence of joining the EEU. “If the trio doesn’t serve national interests they will automatically place themselves beyond this [anti-government] struggle and Zharangutyun will again chart its own course,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).