By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a major contender in the May 25 parliamentary elections, may withdraw its long-running support for President Robert Kocharian if he fails to fulfill his key campaign promises, one of its leaders warned Monday.
“If Kocharian does not achieve objectives which he undertook to achieve, we will, of course, reconsider our attitudes,” Armen Rustamian told RFE/RL. “We have supported the president in the hope that he will achieve those objectives.”
Rustamian said the nationalist party represented in Armenia’s government expects Kocharian to purge the executive of unpopular officials, ensure the rule of law and combat “injustice” reigning in the country. He did not specify which concrete officials should be sacked by Kocharian.
The need to fight against the endemic government corruption in Armenia is the central theme of Dashnaktsutyun’s election campaign. The party’s leaders stress that they lack government levers to tackle the problem and therefore need greater representation in the parliament. One of them, Vahan Hovannisian, told supporters last week that Kocharian failed to “establish justice” during his first term in office. “Eradicating corruption is now becoming his main objective,” Hovannisian said.
Dashnaktsutyun has supported Kocharian ever since he took power in February 1998, endorsing his successful reelection bid this year. It at the same time distances itself from the government of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian whose Republican Party (HHK) is seen as the most influential of pro-Kocharian forces contesting the elections. Relations between the two parties appear increasingly strained, with an HHK leader implicitly accusing the Dashnaks last week of using unfair methods of electoral struggle.
The tensions were exposed further over the weekend when Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, a top Republican candidate, publicly attacked Hrant Vartanian, a tobacco magnate who is running for the parliament on the Dashnaktsutyun ticket. Speaking during an HHK campaign rally in the southern town of Masis, Sarkisian avoided mentioning Vartanian’s name, scornfully referring to him as “tobacco.”
But Rustamian downplayed the extent of differences between the two parties, saying that they are “competitors,” not bitter enemies.