The Armenian National Congress (HAK) continues to favor close cooperation with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian in its efforts to topple President Serzh Sarkisian, a leading member of the opposition alliance said on Tuesday.
Levon Zurabian insisted that the HAK and the BHK are the sole major political forces capable of seriously challenging Sarkisian in the upcoming presidential election.
A top representative of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Education Minster Armen Ashotian, disputed that claim, however, saying that the two groups cannot threaten Sarkisian’s hold on power even if they join forces.
“It is going to be a fight of life or death, and the opposition must do everything to be able to acquire, in this fight against the regime and for the establishment of democracy, necessary allies interested in … putting in place new rules of the game in Armenia,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
Zurabian said that the two political groups should strive for a regime change that would result in democratization, separation of business from government and genuine protection of private property. “I think that the HAK, Prosperous Armenia and the broader society can rally around these objectives,” he said.
Zurabian, who leads the HAK’s 7-member faction in the Armenian parliament, claimed that Sarkisian will seek to strip Tsarukian and former President Robert Kocharian of their “vast financial resources” in case of winning reelection. “People owning property and businesses do not feel safe in this vicious political system,” he said when asked why Tsarukian should be interested in cooperating with the HAK.
HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly advocated close cooperation with the BHK over the past year amid Tsarukian’s growing tensions with the presidential camp, which culminated in his party’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition in June. Ter-Petrosian’s bloc, Tsarukian’s party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) collaborated during the May 6 parliamentary elections. They jointly questioned the legitimacy of the official election results that gave victory to Sarkisian’s HHK.
The HAK’s readiness to work together with the BHK has been criticized by other opposition groups and even some Ter-Petrosian allies who left his bloc after the May elections in protest. They point to Tsarukian’s reputedly close ties with Kocharian, the man who ordered a deadly crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement after the disputed 2008 presidential election. HAK leaders had previously referred to the BHK as an integral part of Armenia’s “kleptocratic” government.
“We do not withdraw our evaluations on any issue,” said Zurabian. “But we also realize that today it is critical for the Armenian people to rid Armenia of this strangling and undemocratic regime.”
Tsarukian has yet to announce whether his party will back Sarkisian’s reelection bid or field its own presidential candidate. Ter-Petrosian, who was the current president’s main election challenger in 2008, has not clarified his election-related plans either.
According to Education Minister Ashotian, who is also a deputy chairman of the HHK, Sarkisian’s party is not worried about the possibility of the HAK and the BHK nominating a single presidential candidate. Such a candidate would not be in a position to derail the incumbent’s reelection, he said.
Ashotian also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the HHK still expects Tsarukian to support Sarkisian in the presidential race. He argued that the tycoon has still not formally disavowed a February 2011 declaration that committed the BHK to doing that.