“I am confident that this is going to be a watershed congress both for Zharangutyun and our public,” he told RFE/RL in an interview. “It will be open to the public. Everyone will see the integrity, potential, new energy, self-criticism and also faith in the future with which Zharangutyun will hold the congress.”
“I think there will be new and fresh forces in the [party] board,” Hovannisian said, commenting on his expectations from the congress tentatively scheduled for July 10.
A former U.S. citizen who had served as Armenia’s first foreign minister in 1992, Hovannisian founded Zharangutyun in 2002 and remains its de facto top leader despite holding no formal leadership positions the party at present. He increasingly detached himself from the party’s day-to-day affairs in recent years.
Zharangutyun was thrust into turmoil last September after Hovannisian announced his intention to resign his parliament seat. The move sparked bitter infighting within its governing board dominated by several young members of Armenia’s parliament. Three senior figures were expelled from the party ranks as a result.
Shortly afterwards, Hovannisian revoked his resignation and appeared to blame both sides for the row. He pledged to “address everybody’s behavior” at an emergency Zharangutyun congress which was initially due to be held early this year. “I am fed up with resigning and apologizing on behalf of others, be it a president, supporters or party comrades,” he declared at the time.
Speaking to RFE/RL on Monday, the popular oppositionist said, “Our deputies that have distinguished themselves as active and adequate legislators will carry on with their mission, their day-to-day commitment to legislative and public matters. But I think there will be changes in the board. That will allow Zharangutyun to open a new era in its service to the society with new leadership methods and new individuals.”
Hovannisian declined to specify whether he is seeking to regain his formal status as party chairman. He said it will be up to congress delegates to decide that.
Hovannisian added that the party conference will also discuss preparations for the next parliamentary elections due in 2012. Zharangutyun will show voters “how it will go about forming a new government, together with allied forces, in the next elections,” he added.