President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has reaffirmed its intention to stay in power for the next decade after successfully neutralizing the country’s largest opposition force.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov made this clear on Thursday night following a meeting of the ruling party’s governing board. The HHK board met just hours after Gagik Tsarukian resigned as chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and retired from politics.
“Remember, I was saying that for the next 10 years the Republican Party will remain the most influential political force … and regardless of who wants to hold which position, nobody can achieve success without going through [the HHK headquarters located on Yerevan’s] Melik-Adamian Street and asking for the Republican Party’s opinion,” Sharmazanov said.
“Life has reaffirmed the fact that for all its shortcomings, the HHK is the most influential and progressive party,” he told reporters in a clear reference to Tsarukian’s capitulation to the government.
In that context, Sharmazanov, who is also a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, stressed that the HHK expects to win the next parliamentary elections due in 2017.
The HHK spokesman made a virtually identical statement in April 2014 amid mounting challenges to President Sarkisian coming from the BHK. It was widely construed as a warning to Tsarukian and his reputed political patron, former President Robert Kocharian.
Tsarukian brushed aside the warning at the time. “Victory in the next presidential and parliamentary elections will bypass Melik-Adamian Street,” he declared.
The BHK’s reaction was far more cautious this time around, reflecting a dramatic change in the party’s goals and ambitions. “As far as I know, governments in Armenia are formed as a result of elections,” Naira Zohrabian, the new BHK chairwoman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday.
By contrast, Sharmazanov’s statement was unequivocally condemned by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, said it underscored the “dictatorial mentality” of the HHK leadership. “This also demonstrates their weakness,” Zurabian said, adding that Sarkisian and his entourage are not confident about the enduring loyalty of their supporters.
The HAK and other established opposition groups do not recognize the legitimacy of the HHK’s victories in the parliamentary and presidential elections held in Armenia since 2007. All of those elections were marred by reports of serious fraud.