By Armen Zakarian
The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) on Saturday further distanced itself from the Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, its senior partner in the ruling Miasnutyun bloc, disowning government policies which it thinks have been a failure. The increasingly disgruntled center-left party also renewed allegations that the authorities are obstructing the investigation into the 1999 parliament shootings which left its popular founder, Karen Demirchian, dead.
“Unfortunately, we have to conclude that policies pursued on behalf of the [Miasnutyun] bloc are not always the policies of the bloc,” Demirchian’s son and political heir, Stepan Demirchian, told over 500 HZhK activists that gathered for a party congress in Yerevan. “The HZhK is not dodging responsibility, the HZhK is conscious of its responsibility before the people and the state. But we do not intend to be held accountable for what others have or have not done,” he said in a speech adopted by the congress as the basis of the new HZhK manifesto.
The one-day gathering brought no clarity in the future of the Demirchian party’s alliance with Markarian’s Republicans which has come under greater strain lately. The two nominal allies have regularly clashed over different issues since Markarian became prime minister one year ago. But none of them appears ready to make the final step towards Miasnutyun’s break-up. The HHK needs the support of over two dozen HZhK lawmakers to push government initiatives through the parliament.
Demirchian, who succeeded his late father as the head of one of Armenia’s most popular parties, used the occasion to again attack the government’s economic policy, targeting its controversial privatization efforts.
He also voiced his party’s dissatisfaction with the course of the shootings probe. Demirchian condemned, in particular, unnamed “senior government officials” for suggesting that the murder of his father, Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and six other officials was masterminded by the gunmen who burst into the assembly on October 27, 1999.
The HZhK and other political allies of the slain officials are convinced that the gunmen had powerful sponsors who may hold senior posts in Armenia’s government. They last week succeeded in forming a parliamentary committee to investigate the possibility that the jailed attackers are being secretly instructed to manipulate their ongoing trial.
But Demirchian expressed skepticism about the success of the commission’s activities, hinting that most of its members are not interested in finding out the truth about the tragedy.