Levon Ter-Petrosian’s opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) played down on Thursday the significance of former President Robert Kocharian’s latest statements, saying that they do not herald his return to active politics.
Senior HAK representatives claimed that Kocharian has only been engaged in a “public debate” with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
“I think that looking in the public debate between Tigran Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian for something that is more than that debate is totally meaningless. Furthermore, focusing on that debate and presenting it as a political process is just what the ruling regime needs,” Levon Zurabian, the party’s deputy chairman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“What we can say is that there is a debate and nothing more,” said Vladimir Karapetian, another senior HAK member.
Karapetian claimed that the Armenian authorities are trying to scare disaffected citizens with talk of a Kocharian comeback. “Through whom could he return? With which team?” he told journalists. He argued that none of Armenia’s major political groups has welcomed Kocharian’s criticism of the government or voiced support for his return to power.
In particular, there has been no official reaction yet from Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force led by Gagik Tsarukian, a businessman close to Kocharian. Political observers regard the BHK as the ex-president’s main support base.
Ter-Petrosian has denied close ties between Kocharian and Tsarukian ever since he began advocating two years ago close cooperation between his party and the BHK aimed at eventually unseating President Serzh Sarkisian. Many Ter-Petrosian allies have openly disagreed with this strategy, leaving the HAK in protest. They say that collaborating with Tsarukian is tantamount to cutting a deal with Kocharian, the man who ordered a deadly crackdown on a Ter-Petrosian-led opposition movement in 2008.
Some of the oppositionists formerly aligned in the HAK have scoffed at Kocharian’s latest statements, saying that he has no moral right to stage a political comeback. The HAK leadership has avoided such criticism. Still, Karapetian insisted that Ter-Petrosian’s party stands by its negative assessments of Kocharian’s rule made in the past.