By Astghik BedevianOpposition leader Stepan Demirchian urged his estranged allies at the weekend to ascertain their political future, warning that his People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) has little to lose from contesting the next elections on its own.
“Those who have not made a choice had better make it quickly,” he said in remarks addressed to the nine other parties making up Armenia’s largest opposition alliance, Artarutyun (Justice).
At least three of those parties are understood to have already decided to part company with Artarutyun and the HZhK in particular. One of them, the radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, has been pushing for the creation of a new opposition grouping that would have a distinctly pro-Western orientation and be prepared for more radical methods of political struggle.
Other Artarutyun parties are reportedly undecided about whether to stick with Demirchian or team up with other opposition groups. Demirchian, who still considers himself the rightful winner of the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections, stressed that the HZhK can do well in elections even without their support.
“The opposition alliances [built around Demirchian] won in all national elections primarily thanks to the HZhK,” he said. “So there is no doubt that the HZhK can successfully contest any election single-handedly.”
Demirchian declined in that regard to publicly denounce Victor Dallakian, a senior Artarutyun lawmaker who was until recently close to the HZhK but is now actively involved in the formation of an ambitious party led by a wealthy businessman close to President Robert Kocharian. “He continues to perform his duties as secretary [of the Artarutyun faction in parliament],” he said. “Time will tell the rest.”
Demirchian also shrugged off the Armenian authorities’ assurances that the next parliamentary and presidential elections, due in 2007 and 2008 respectively, will not be fraudulent. “Aren’t you tired of that demagogy?” he told journalists. “This regime can not fail to rig elections. One must not have any illusions. They will try to falsify the next elections as well. But of course we will fight against those falsifications.”