By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian on Tuesday formally ended his membership of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), repeating his claims that its current leadership has betrayed the political legacy of its late founder, Karen Demirchian, by cooperating with radical opposition groups.
In a statement that may set off a wave of defections from the party’s parliamentary faction, Khachatrian said he quits the HZhK to protest against its growing ties with “forces seeking to destabilize the political situation in the republic.
The move is part of broader inner-party divisions over how the HZhK should build its relations with President Robert Kocharian and the government of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. The speaker, his deputy Gagik Aslanian and several HZhK members of the parliament are against any confrontation with Kocharian, as opposed to the majority of party activists who have grown frustrated with the authorities’ handling of the parliament attack investigation.
Political observers say the rift may cause the HZhK’s 18-member faction in the 131-strong National Assembly to shrink nearly by half, making it virtually unable to affect key parliament votes. This could in turn make Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) even less inclined to reckon with its partner in the Miasnutyun bloc.
In a strong personal attack on Stepan Demirchian, the late Demirchian’s younger son and the HZhK’s current chairman, the speaker charged that one of Armenia’s most popular parties is now led by a “group of political protégés and hypocrites” who are keen to quell any internal dissent.
Khachatrian made similar allegations in an interview with RFE/RL on Saturday, the day after the HZhK’s political council demanded his and Aslanian’s expulsion from the party’s supreme decision-making body. Demirchian Jr. has so far not commented on the allegations.
It is not clear yet whether the HZhK dissenters will form a new political organization. Khachatrian hinted at such possibility when he called for the “consolidation of all forces devoted to Karen Demirchian’s principles.”