By Nane Atshemian
Opposition leaders confirmed on Friday reports that they are considering setting up a new alliance that will not only seek to oust President Robert Kocharian but also steer Armenia closer to the West.
News reports have linked several prominent politicians, including former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, with the initiative. One newspaper said earlier this week that the new bloc will be unveiled “in the coming days.”
But according to Hovannes Hovannisian, a former senior pro-Kocharian lawmaker who now leads a small opposition party, no official announcements to that effect will be made until next month. “Reports that some documents have already been signed are really exaggerated,” he told RFE/RL. “Discussions are still going on. But I can say for certain that they will result in the creation of a new opposition alliance.”
Hovannisian confirmed that some parties making up Armenia’s presently biggest opposition bloc, Artarutyun (Justice), are involved in those discussions. “There are a couple of parties from the Artarutyun bloc with which we are negotiating,” he said.
Sarkisian’s Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party is one of Artarutyun’s principal forces. He confirmed his participation in “conversations about Armenia’s present and future” with other prominent oppositionists. “I have always stood for expanding Armenia’s political field,” he said. “In this context, I am in favor of any new and expanded [opposition] structure.”
Artarutyun’s top leader Stepan Demirchian and his People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) have repeatedly spoken out against any change in the existing opposition alignments. A senior HZhK member was quoted by the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily this week as saying that the party has received no offers to join other alliances.
Meanwhile, Raffi Hovannisian was not in Armenia on Friday and could not be reached for comment. The popular U.S.-born politician supported Demirchian in last year’s presidential election but subsequently distanced himself from the latter.
Both in the election aftermath and during its spring campaign against Kocharian, the Armenian opposition failed to receive the kind of Western support enjoyed by its counterparts in Georgia and Ukraine. Analysts believe attribute this to its vague platforms on domestic and foreign policy.
Some Artarutyun leaders, including Sarkisian, have since grown more pro-Western in their discourse, openly criticizing Armenia’s ally Russia for its blanket endorsement of Kocharian’s disputed reelection. Hovannes Hovannisian’s Liberal Progressive Party, which was set up last year, went farther, saying that Armenia should leave the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty and eventually join NATO.
(Photolur photo: Hovannes Hovannisian.)