Two leading Armenian opposition parties defended on Friday their endorsement of Armenia’s accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union against criticism voiced by other, pro-Western forces and figures critical of President Serzh Sarkisian.
Dozens of deputies from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Thursday joined the pro-government majority in the National Assembly in voting for the ratification of an accession treaty with the EEU signed by Sarkisian. The treaty was also backed by lawmakers representing the opposition Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun parties.
Stepan Markarian, a senior BHK deputy, said the party led by business Gagik Tsarukian did so “for the sake of the country’s security,” clearly alluding to Armenia’s military alliance with Russia.
Markarian also implied that the BHK has some misgivings about membership in the EEU. “We consider it neither very good nor very dangerous,” he told reporters. “This was a manifestation of pragmatism.”
Both Markarian and Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, again dismissed critics’ claims that the Russian-led bloc poses a grave threat to Armenia’s independence. Zurabian also rebutted pro-Western activists’ allegations that voting for EEU membership amounted to high treason.
“I think those people who really believe that we are facing a loss of independence and are speaking out against that are themselves real traitors because they didn’t smash the National Assembly [compound] fence,” said Zurabian. “If I believed that we are facing a loss of independence I would smash it, break into the National Assembly and wreak havoc there to keep [deputies] from making such a decision.”
Only about two dozen people rallied outside the parliament building in Yerevan during three-day debates on the ratification of the EEU treaty. Most of them are civic activists who stand for closer ties with the West and the European Union in particular.
The HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has repeatedly branded such activists “marginal elements,” deriding their inability to attract larger crowds. Ter-Petrosian has also tried to rationalize strong Russian pressure which is believed to have forced to Sarkisian to opt for EEU membership last year.
Ter-Petrosian claimed in December 2013 that the EU itself provoked that pressure by offering a far-reaching Association Agreement to Yerevan. “Before the idea of European association was initiated, Russia did not demand that Ukraine and Armenia join the Customs Union, but when it saw that there are overt attempts to bring those countries out of its zone of influence it adopted a tough stance,” he said.