By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential pro-government party, will contest the upcoming parliamentary elections in an alliance with tobacco magnate Hrant Vartanian and possibly other wealthy businessmen supporting President Robert Kocharian, it emerged on Thursday.
Dashnaktsutyun’s parliamentary leader, Aghvan Vartanian, told RFE/RL that it will include members of an obscure small party led by the tycoon on its list of candidates for the May 25 polls. “Dashnaktsutyun will participate with its own electoral list,” he said. “That list will include many people not affiliated with the party.”
Hrant Vartanian (no relation to the Dashnaktsutyun leader) is one of Armenia’s richest men. He owns several large businesses, notably the Grand Tobacco firm which controls about half of Armenia’s cigarette market. He has close ties with Kocharian and has actively campaigned for the latter’s reelection.
Sources told RFE/RL that Dashnaktsutyun, which also strongly supports the president, is in talks with other government-connected businessmen. They said the party’s electoral slate will also comprise Kocharian’s chief of staff, Artashes Tumanian.
Dashnaktsutyun’s Vartanian said his party, which holds two ministerial posts, continues to hold consultations with two other major groups aligned with Kocharian: the Republican Party and Orinats Yerkir. “Some agreements have already been reached,” he said, adding that those primarily center on the nomination of candidates in 56 single-mandate constituencies.
The party lists, by contrast, are nominated for the 75 other parliament seats contested under the system of proportional representation.