In a joint declaration signed on Thursday, Sarkisian’s Republican Party and its junior coalition partners, the Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir parties, pledged to campaign for the incumbent president’s reelection in 2013.
The governing parties also made clear that they will contest next year’s parliamentary elections separately but without “changing correlation of forces within the Coalition.” They expressed confidence that they will have even more seats in Armenia’s next parliament.
The ruling coalition controls at least 100 seats in the current 131-member National Assembly.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, called these declaration provisions “absurd,” saying that the coalition parties are effectively predetermining the outcome of the parliamentary polls due in May 2012.
“Today the coalition forces have more than 100 deputies,” Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Can their presence get any bigger? At whose expense? Must there be no opposition at all in this country?”
“At issue is a monopolization of the entire political stage,” he said.
Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of the opposition party’s worldwide governing Bureau, also denounced the deal, saying that it will have “extremely negative” consequences for the country. “In effect, a dictatorship, a totalitarian system is thus being formed in the government camp,” he charged.
Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the Armenian Diaspora, itself was a member of the ruling coalition until April 2009. It pulled out of the government in protest against Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey and has since been increasingly critical of his track record.
Markarian and Rustamian spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service as their party launched what it calls a broad-based movement against Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud. They said the movement will focus on raising public awareness of electoral rights and discouraging Armenians from selling their votes.
Rustamian made clear that Dashnaktsutyun is ready to cooperate with all other opposition forces, notably the Armenian National Congress (HAK), in promoting the conduct of free and fair elections. “We are ready to cooperate with everyone, regardless of their political orientation,” he said.
Dashnaktsutyun and the HAK leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, have a long history of mutual antagonism. Dashnaktsutyun was controversially banned by Ter-Petrosian in 1994. It endorsed the suppression of massive anti-government protests staged by Ter-Petrosian after the disputed February 2008 presidential election.