A prominent opposition figure announced his retirement from politics on Tuesday, citing growing disagreements with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which his Hanrapetutyun (Republic) is a key member.
Suren Sureniants, a longtime member of Hanrapetutyun’s governing board, accused the HAK of not tolerating dissent and said the bloc’s uncompromising stance against the Armenian government is counterproductive.
Sureniants has increasingly distanced himself from the HAK’s position on key issues facing the country, notably the rapprochement with Turkey, in recent months. Earlier this month, he came under a hail of criticism from HAK supporters and opposition newspapers after meeting with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian to discuss recent non-combat shootings at two Armenian army unit that left seven soldiers dead.
Many oppositionists were particularly incensed with his declaration that Ohanian is “sincerely” committed to solving the killings and combating broader abuse and bullying within the armed forces. Some have accused him of secretly collaborating with the authorities.
Sureniants said he decided to end his membership in Hanrapetutyun because the party is under pressure from the HAK to take action against him. “If I remained on the Hanrapetutyun board, such attacks would continue,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, “I’m sure the chairman of the Hanrapetutyun party would support me, and that would cause additional tension within the Armenian National Congress (HAK). I am sacrificing my political ambitions for a more important goal.”
The Hanrapetutyun leader, Aram Sarkisian, could not be contacted on Tuesday, while the HAK’s central office declined a comment.
The young oppositionist said that despite quitting politics, he will try to help Hanrapetutyun change an “authoritarian system” which he said exists within the opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. “But I’m not very optimistic on this issue,” he added.
According to Sureniants, the “barricade struggle” favored by the HAK is leading nowhere. “I’m not saying that they should cooperate with the authorities,” he said. “Absolutely not. What I’m saying is that they should be principled but realistic and realize that maintaining this regime of confrontation [with the authorities] will result in the same kind of [flawed] elections in two years’ time.”
Sureniants insisted that he continues to regard Ter-Petrosian as “the most exceptional statesman of our time.” “Nothing has changed in my attitudes,” he said. “I just don’t want to be involved in these skewed political relationships.”