A prominent opposition politician has left the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), accusing its de facto top leader Levon Ter-Petrosian of stifling dissent and engaging in foul play.
Karapet Rubinian, a former deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, announced his resignation following a weekend party congress that elected the HHSh’s new governing board. He ran for board membership but failed to must sufficient support among the congress delegates.
In an open letter to party members posted on his Facebook account late on Monday, Rubinian accused congress organizers of rigging vote results to bar him from the new board at the behest of Ter-Petrosian. He described that as retribution for his criticism of Ter-Petrosian’s leadership of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the country’s largest opposition alliance comprising the HHSh and more than a dozen other parties.
“Since even sick minds can not imagine me entering into a deal with the authorities, one can presume only one thing: Mr. Ter-Petrosian is thus punishing me for criticizing his HAK policies or, more precisely, is keeping dissent away from the HHSh board,” he said.
Rubinian compared the congress to Soviet-era Communist Party conferences that rarely involved any debates and were meant to rubber-stamp decisions taken by the party leadership. He claimed that it marked a “deep and irreversible degradation” of a party that ended Communist rule in Armenia in 1990, led the country to independence and governed it until Ter-Petrosian’s resignation as president of the republic in early 1998.
Rubinian also denounced Ter-Petrosian’s speech at the congress and, in particular, his claims that Armenia stands no chance of sustainable development without making peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey. “Did any of you fail to notice that instead of speaking about his further actions, the leader of our struggle … spoke about the senselessness of that struggle?” he asked, accusing Ter-Petrosian of spreading “despair” among Armenians.
The veteran politician did not specify whether he is also resigning as a member of the HAK and coordinator of its special task force campaigning for the release of more than a dozen Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in prison on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election crisis in Armenia. He declined a comment when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator and a close Ter-Petrosian associate, said he has received no resignation notifications from Rubinian. He also refused to comment on the latter’s allegations directed at the HAK leader. “That statement was made in the intra-party context, and we don’t comment on any intra-party issues,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The vote rigging allegations were rejected by Vahagn Hayotsian, a senior HHSh member reelected to the party board. He said Rubinian did not become a board member because of having had little involvement in party affairs over the past decade. “He hasn’t set foot in the HHSh [offices] for ten years,” Hayotsian told reporters.
“Frankly, I was surprised by that statement,” he said. “Before going public, Rubinian was able to protest against the voting process in the [congress] auditorium. Speaking about that through the media two days after the congress is not right.”