The five parliament deputies representing Zharangutyun demonstratively walked out of the parliament on February 28, accusing President Serzh Sarkisian of seeking to illegally prolong his rule. The party chairman, Raffi Hovannisian, condemned Sarkisian’s new power-sharing agreement with his junior coalition partners that predicts their crushing victory in parliamentary elections due to be held next year.
The party’s governing Council was supposed to decide on its further actions at a meeting held on March 6. However, the decision was delayed until March 13.
The walkout fuelled speculation that Zharangutyun could boycott parliament sessions or even surrender its parliament mandates altogether.
But Stepan Safarian, the nominal head of the party’s parliament faction, made clear that neither option will be accepted by the Zharangutyun leadership. “We have not discussed and will not discuss the issue of abandoning our [parliament] mandates,” he told journalists.
Safarian also said that the Zharangutyun lawmakers will return to the parliament. “Of course, we will participate [in parliament sessions,]” he said, adding that the party does not want to lose “resources which we earned thanks to popular votes.”
Hovannisian, who served as Armenia’s first foreign minister in 1992, made a surprise appearance at an anti-government rally held in Yerevan on March 1 by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical and influential opposition force. But he did not attempt to speak at the protest or join HAK leaders standing on the podium.
Relations between the two opposition groups have become increasingly frosty in the past three years. Some Zharangutyun leaders have accused the HAK of seeking to impose its will on the entire opposition camp.
HAK representatives have dismissed such claims. One of them, Levon Zurabian, said last week that Hovannisian’s party lacks the political clout to pose a serious threat to the Armenian authorities and should therefore join the HAK in campaigning for leadership change in the country.