There has been growing speculation about a rift between the two parties of late. Their representatives publicly clashed in Yerevan’s municipal council earlier this month. The BHK, which is led by millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian, threatened to permanently boycott the council, accusing its HHK majority and Yerevan’s Republican Mayor Gagik Beglarian of monopolizing power and tolerating no dissent.
Tsarukian, who is believed to be close to former President Robert Kocharian, has also been linked by pro-opposition media with an alleged plot to force Sarkisian’s government and eventually the president himself into resignation.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior aide to the tycoon and a parliament deputy from the BHK, dismissed the speculation in an interview with RFE/RL. She insisted that the BHK has no differences with the HHK on “issues essential for the country” and continues “stand by the president.”
Zohrabian also denied any political motives behind Tsarukian’s failure to attend a weekend congress of the HHK along with other party leaders. She argued that Tsarukian is currently in the United States on a private visit.
Zohrabian made clear at the same time that continued power-sharing cooperation between the two parties until the next parliamentary elections due in 2012 is not a forgone conclusion. “Nobody can make such a prediction,” she said. “I will repeat that the coalition is not a fusion of Siamese twins. Every political force has its own concrete objectives.”
In a speech at the HHK congress, President Sarkisian urged his party to be more tolerant of and receptive to dissent both within and outside its ranks. He said the Republicans should also help create a “culture of dialogue” in the Armenian political arena.
Zohrabian interpreted that as a response to recent overtures made to Sarkisian by his most influential opponent, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. But Karen Avagian, a senior HHK member, insisted that Sarkisian did not react to Ter-Petrosian or anyone else in his speech.
Avagian said the HHK leader simply reiterated his readiness for dialogue with a broad range of political forces. “The Republican Party is very clearly pursuing its policy, and in that process whoever tries to join in the implementation of its programs … will have no problem,” he told journalists.
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) declined to comment on Sarkisian’s speech. A representative of the opposition alliance, Vladimir Karapetian, said only that the HAK is ready to start a dialogue with the authorities if all of its members and supporters arrested following last year’s presidential election are set free.
“In the event of the release of political prisoners, it would be possible to sit at the negotiation table and discuss variants of cooperation,” Karapetian told RFE/RL. “I won’t consider realistic any talk [of such cooperation] until then.”