Artur Baghdasarian, a former political ally of President Serzh Sarkisian, has set up a new political group to replace his Orinats Yerkir party which critics believe has been discredited by association with the Armenian government.
Baghdasarian presided on Sunday over the founding congress of the Armenian Renaissance Association (HVM) which he said has been cobbled together not only by Orinats Yerkir but also 11 other parties as well as dozens of mostly little-known non-governmental organizations.
Addressing the gathering, the former parliament speaker and secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council dismissed suggestions that he is simply rebranding a damaged party. “Each of the parties [making up the HVM] has 2,000-3,000 members,” he claimed.
“We must be able to find within ourselves faith, potential for struggle and determination in order to achieve a real breakthrough in the country,” Baghdasarian said, commenting on the new party’s mission.
He declined to talk to reporters before and after the speech
Baghdasarian became a staunch presidential ally after finishing third in a disputed 2008 presidential election that formalized the handover of power from President Robert Kocharian to Sarkisian. Orinats Yerkir as well as two other parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun, joined a coalition government formed by Sarkisian after the ballot followed by a deadly government crackdown on the opposition.
Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK pulled out of the coalition for different reasons in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Orinats Yerkir announced its decision to follow suit in 2014.
Its leaders complained afterwards that the party never had a real influence on key government decisions. Baghdasarian accused Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) of monopolizing power.
Orinats Yerkir barely passed, according to official results, the 5 percent vote threshold for being represented in the National Assembly in the last parliamentary elections held in 2012.Some observers believed before the establishment of Baghdasarian’s new party that Orinats Yerkir is unlikely to have any seats in the next parliament to be elected in May 2017.
The choice of the new party’s name has sparked controversy. Earlier this month, a Paris-based Diaspora group also called the Armenian Renaissance accused Baghdasarian of “stealing” its name. The group, which is highly critical of the Sarkisian government, branded Baghdasarian as a “discredited politician.”
The HVM leadership rejected the allegations on February 17, saying that Baghdasarian and his associates were unaware of the existence of the “unknown” Diaspora group when they decided to form the new party last year.