The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Monday defended its readiness to cut a new power-sharing deal with President Serzh Sarkisian, while acknowledging that his administration is unpopular with many Armenians.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, insisted that his party can improve the state of affairs in Armenia by rejoining its “discredited” government.
“In this situation, we can see that the authorities are discredited,” Rustamian told reporters. “But their being discredited is a problem for all of us, isn’t it? We are looking to change the quality, approaches and policies of the government and to change the situation in the country.”
Rustamian agreed that Dashnaktsutyun will upset many of its supporters by again teaming up with Sarkisian and taking up government posts. “Naturally being part of the government automatically means losing your approval ratings,” he said. “But it’s better for us to pay this price than for the whole nation to lose the state.”
“We are going to pay the price. But rest assured that we are also going to have a much better Armenia,” he added.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), was quick to rebuke Rustamian for alleging a lack of popular support for the ruling regime. “I’m not saying that the people are crazy about the Republicans,” he said. “But the fact is that for all its shortcomings, the HHK is the most established, stable, disciplined and influential political force in Armenia.”
Dashnaktsutyun pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition government in 2009 in protest against his controversial policy of rapprochement with Turkey. The party which is particularly influential in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora increasingly criticized the government in the following years. But it effectively stopped challenging Sarkisian in 2013 as the latter pressed ahead with a constitutional reform backed by Dashnaktsutyun.
Sarkisian reportedly offered Dashnaktsutyun, which holds 5 seats in the 131-member National Assembly, to rejoin his cabinet last month. The two sides have since been negotiating details of the power-sharing deal.
Rustamian said they have not yet reached an agreement on the ministerial and other government posts that will be given to his party. He said that Dashnaktsutyun will primarily strive to make a difference in Armenia not with those posts but through the full implementation of the constitutional reform. To that end, he said, Dashnaktsutyun will lobby for the passage of a dozen major laws stemming from the reform.
The sweeping constitutional changes envisage Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary form of government after Sarkisian ends his second and final presidential term in 2018.Dashnaktsutyun says that the parliamentary republic bodes well for the country’s democratization. Rustamian claimed that the reform has already made Armenia’s political system more democratic.
Leading opposition groups are bound to brush aside these claims. They maintain that the main purpose of the amendments enacted in the December 6 referendum is to enable Sarkisian to effectively extend his rule. They also accuse the authorities of having blatantly rigged the referendum and planning similar fraud for the next parliamentary elections due in 2017.