A veteran member of Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has voiced his concerns over last week’s offer of cooperation to a key ruling coalition party made by the alliance’s leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
In an extraordinary reversal, Ter-Petrosian expressed his readiness to cooperate with pro-government tycoon Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) if it leaves the three-party governing coalition and openly challenges current President Serzh Sarkisian, the leader of the main ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Addressing a HAK rally in Yerevan last Friday Ter-Petrosian made it clear that there was no consensus within the 18-party alliance regarding what amounted to his offer of a deal to the BHK.
Petros Makeyan, the leader of the Democratic Homeland party, warned on Tuesday that considering cooperation with the BHK, which is accused by critics of mainly lobbying the interests of its wealthy members, could lead to the opposition alliance’s losing its popular support.
Casting doubt over the willingness of “oligarchs to go against their own interests”, Makeyan outlined several risks that he sees for the HAK.
“Today, we seem to be creating another Artur Baghdasarian [former opposition leader who agreed to back Serzh Sarkisian in the wake of his disputed election as president] out of Gagik Tsarukian. On the one hand, it seems that he is becoming a victim of the authorities. On the other hand, the HAK acknowledges him as a serious political force. In that case we will have a new syndrome, whose fruits we saw in 2008,” Makeyan said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am). “In that case it will be suitable for Gagik Tsarukian and the government. But not for the state or the opposition.”
Makeyan also said he will attend an upcoming meeting of the HAK’s political council and will vocally pronounce against cooperation with the BHK.
Meanwhile, the BHK has remained noncommittal over Ter-Petrosian’s offer of cooperation. Contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday a spokesman said Tsarukian was on vocation outside Armenia and the party could not officially reply to Ter-Petrosian’s statement in his absence.
The opposition leader’s statement came amid speculations about growing differences between the BHK and its senior coalition partner, HHK.
Representatives of the two parties, however, have not publicly spoken about their disagreements. One of possible indications of increased competition between the two was a recent mayoral race in a small provincial town in which a BHK-backed candidate managed to unseat the incumbent who enjoyed the backing of the HHK.
In their public remarks senior HHK members took the defeat of their candidate in its stride, but it reportedly became a subject of ‘analysis’ at a meeting of the party’s executive body earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the BHK has denied recent media reports alleging pressures against its members based on a number of arrests as part of separate criminal investigations.
BHK spokesman Baghdasar Mherian, in particular, denied that an Armen Muradian, who was recently arrested on drug dealing charges, is a member of the party or an employee of a cement factory that belongs to Tsarukian. He also denied any party affiliation of another person, Artur Ghazarian, who was also arrested on drug dealing charges two weeks ago.