By Anna Saghabalian
An Armenian party led by Samvel Babayan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former military leader, confirmed on Tuesday reports that it is set to merge with two other political groups ahead of next year’s presidential election.
According to the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Babayan’s Dashink party as well as the Diaspora-linked Ramkavar Azatakan (HRAK) and the opposition National Revival parties are holding negotiations on such a merger and are close to agreement. The paper said the new organization will bear the HRAK’s name and be led by Babayan.
Representatives of the three parties essentially confirmed the information, even if they cautioned that the talks are sill going on. Gnel Ghlechian, a senior member of Dashink, said his party will likely meet for an extraordinary congress in late September to formally agree to merging into the HRAK. He said the move would stem from Babayan’s and his allies’ belief that the Armenian opposition is too fragmented to pose a serious threat to the government and must consolidate.
“This unification, which I hope will materialize, is the way to go for all parties,” Ghlechian told RFE/RL.
“At this point there is only an intention, a desire to see political forces in Armenia unite on the basis of ideological similarities,” said Albert Bazeyan, a prominent politician who leads National Revival. “We have not yet taken any concrete steps in that direction.”
None of the three parties cleared the 5 percent vote threshold to win seats in parliament under the system of proportional representation in the May 12 elections. Dashink won a single parliament seat in a constituency in northwestern Armenia, while the two other parties are not represented in the current National Assembly at all.
Ghlechian would not say if Babayan, who commanded the Karabakh Armenian army from 1993-1999, expects to be the top leader of the new party. “It is too early to speculate who will run it,” he said.
Still, the HRAK chairman, Harutiun Arakelian, indicated that he does not object to the former Karabakh strongman taking over the new party. “I personally would not take such a development painfully,” he told RFE/RL. “My task is to make the party stronger and to double or triple the number of its members and structures.”
The HRAK, which has an eponymous sister organization in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, has been loyal to President Robert Kocharian throughout his nearly decade-long rule. Dashink and National Revival, by contrast, claim to be in opposition to Kocharian.
It is not clear if the three parties plan to field a single presidential candidate. Babayan stated recently that he has no intention to run for president.