By Ruzanna StepanianA group of prominent politicians completed a split within Armenia’s most radical opposition group on Friday when they held the founding congress of their new political party.
Former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan, former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and other former member of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party said the new party called National Revival will be in opposition to President Robert Kocharian. They joined the country’s leading opposition forces in urging the electorate to reject Kocharian’s draft constitutional amendments at the November 27 referendum.
Bazeyan, Harutiunian and their sympathizers split from Hanrapetutyun last September in protest against its leader Aram Sarkisian’s increasingly pro-Western orientation and radical anti-government discourse. The dissenters found Sarkisian’s stance too “anti-Russian,” saying that their view is shared by scores of party activists.
But they could not say on Friday how many Hanrapetutyun members have joined the new party, saying only that National Revival already has more than 2,000 members. “We haven’t made such calculations,” said Bazeyan. “We are setting up a new party. Registration of party members will be carried out after the congress.”
Sarkisian and his associates insist that the split has not weakened their party and its resolved to bring down the Kocharian administration in a “democratic revolution.”
Bazeyan was also reluctant to comment on differences that will exist between the two parties. “You compare us and see the differences,” he told reporters.
“Hanrapetutyun’s existing platform is hardly different from ours,” Harutiunian said for his part. “It’s just that statements [made by Hanrapetutyun leaders] contradict a bit that platform.”
“We will first calculate and then take steps,” added the pro-Russian former defense chief.
The National Revival leaders also said they will decide whether to join Armenia’s largest opposition alliance, Artarutyun (Justice), after registering their party. Hanrapetutyun is a key member of the bloc.
(Photolur photo: Bazeyan addressing the New Revival congress.)