Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and businessman Gagik Tsarukian met again on Tuesday after major political parties led by them pledged to continue challenging Armenia’s government reshuffled last month as a result of their growing cooperation.
In a joint statement, Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said the two men discussed the political situation in the country and continued cooperation among the BHK, the HAK, and two other opposition parties represented in the parliament. The statement gave no details, saying only that four close associates of Ter-Petrosian and Tsarukian also took part in the meeting.
The meeting coincided with the start of parliamentary debates on the policy program of the recently appointed Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and his cabinet. Its approval by the National Assembly would amount to a parliamentary vote of confidence in the government.
Abrahamian’s predecessor Tigran Sarkisian unexpectedly stepped down over a month ago just days after the four opposition parties agreed to put forward a motion of censure against his government and stage joint rallies in support of the initiative. Ter-Petrosian declared afterwards that President Serzh Sarkisian engineered the cabinet change to avert the planned protests. He urged his opposition allies and the BHK in particular to try to thwart a vote of confidence in Abrahamian’s cabinet and thus force President Sarkisian to call fresh parliamentary elections.
The BHK has responded to those calls with caution. But its representatives did make clear earlier on Tuesday that the BHK’s parliamentary faction, the second largest in the National Assembly, will not vote for the new government’s action plan.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, said Tsarukian’s party only needs to decide whether to boycott the secret ballot or take part and vote against the program. “There will be discussions today and tomorrow and the party will decide how to vote,” she told reporters. “I think we will also discuss the issue with our opposition partners.”
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, expressed hope that the four minority parties will formulate a common stance. “Our positions are quite close,” he said.
Zurabian and lawmakers from the opposition Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun parties made clear that they will not back Abrahamian’s government. Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamian said its program essentially represents a “continuation” of policies pursued by Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet.
With the ruling Republican Party o Armenia (HHK) controlling the majority of parliament seats, Abrahamian will almost certainly secure a vote of confidence in any case. “We are not worried at all,” Gagik Melikian, a senior HHK parliamentarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) when asked about joint steps planned by the opposition.