A senior member of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) left the opposition party on Friday in protest against its apparent readiness to support a controversial constitutional reform initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Karapet Rubinian announced his decision on Facebook the day after three leaders of the HHSh met with Sarkisian as part of his consultations on the issue held with major Armenian parties. He said it is unacceptable for an opposition party to have any direct contact with a man who “usurped power through murders and mass repressions.”
Rubinian objected just as strongly when the fellow HHSh leaders held similar talks with the president in March. But he stopped short of terminating his membership in the party at the time.
Alexander Arzumanian, one of the three party leaders who met Sarkisian on Thursday, said he respects Rubinian’s decision but defended the meeting, arguing that it was authorized by the HHSh’s governing board. “I spoke to Karapet Rubinian a month ago,” he said. “He insisted that he is against [meeting Sarkisian,] which is his right. Members of the same party are not supposed to be of the same opinion.”
“As a party represented in the National Assembly, we cannot stay away from this political process,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HHSh claims to be the legal successor to an eponymous party that led Armenia to independence in 1991-1992. It is headed by veteran politicians who used to be close associates of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. They fell out with Ter-Petrosian in 2010-2012.
Ter-Petrosian’s current party, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), is one of the opposition groups categorically rejecting Sarkisian’s constitutional changes as an effort to prolong his rule, which is supposed to end in 2018. The HAK and another opposition party represented in the parliament, Zharangutyun, were also invited to hold consultations with Sarkisian but refused to meet him.
The proposed constitutional reform is also rejected by the Founding Parliament, a more radical opposition force. Its top leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, on Friday branded as “traitors” the opposition politicians who held talks with Sarkisian this week. Like Rubinian, he accused Sarkisian of having “usurped” power in the country and lacking legitimacy.
“I think it’s wrong to describe as politicians those people who accepted Serzh Sarkisian’s invitations,” Sefilian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They are only puppets manipulated by Serzh Sarkisian to mislead the outside world.”
Sefilian reaffirmed the Founding Parliament’s readiness to team up with the HAK and Zharangutyun in trying to scuttle the constitutional changes that will be put on a referendum later this year. He said leaders of the three groups have already held a series of meetings to explore the possibility of joining forces.
“I think that this occasion created by our adversary will be a great incentive for the formation of an alliance,” added Sefilian.