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Dashnaks Choose To Retain Parliament Posts


Armenian Revolutionary Federation leaders Vahan Hovannisian, left, and Armen Rustamian hold a news conference in 2007.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Thursday that it has accepted a government offer to allow two of its senior figures to continue to head key parliament committees despite its withdrawal from Armenia’s ruling coalition.

All Dashnaktsutyun members holding senior positions in the executive and legislative branches of government tendered their resignations earlier this week following the party’s decision to leave the coalition in protest against President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy toward Turkey. Among them were Armen Rustamian and Artur Aghabekian, the chairmen of the parliament committees on foreign affairs and defense respectively.

Speaking on behalf of Sarkisian and the three parties remaining in government, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian on Wednesday urged Dashnaktsutyun to withdraw Rustamian’s and Aghabekian’s resignations. He said the offer reflects the Armenian authorities’ readiness to cooperate with the opposition.

Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia met to discuss the offer later in the day. “Mindful of the fact that this step is aimed making the political area healthier, we accept the coalition’s proposal,” Vahan Hovannisian, the leader of the nationalist party’s parliament faction, said the next morning.

“The ideas that underpinned the coalition proposal are dear to us,” Hovannisian told the National Assembly. “We ourselves have for years fought, both inside and outside the coalition, for expanding opposition rights in our country and creating a civilized environment for debate.”

“We will strive to ensure that the opposition has more mechanisms for counterbalancing and restraining the authorities while working with them,” he said. “A strong opposition strengthens the state.”

The decision will be seized upon by those members and supporters of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) who claim that Dashnaktsutyun will continue to collaborate with Sarkisian in its new status. Levon Zurabian, an HAK leader, said on Tuesday that the nationalist party has yet to “earn the right to be a real opposition.”

For their part, Dashnaktsutyun leaders have indicated they are unlikely to cooperate with the opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. They have also made clear that their party, which had been controversially banned by Ter-Petrosian in 1994, will not seek to topple Sarkisian or force fresh elections.
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