Armenia’s main ruling party has dismissed the growing speculation about a ‘witch hunt’ against its junior partner in the three-member governing coalition after a serious of criminal arrests and an alleged shooting incident linked to politics.
Earlier this week, some members of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) spoke of possible retributions over allegedly breaking ranks after a series of recent arrests of its supporters on drug-related charges.
Despite suspecting a pattern behind the arrests, the BHK spokesperson conspicuously stopped short of ‘jumping to conclusions’, saying the party would discuss the developments and issue a relevant statement after the return of its leader Gagik Tsarukian, who has been vacationing abroad since last week.
Nor did the BHK immediately react to an alleged shooting incident near the house of its lawmaker on Thursday morning. Media reports quoted some residents of the village of Janfida in Armenia’s central Armavir province as saying they had heard several shots in the village not far from where MP Rustam Gasparian lives. Janfida’s head Edik Manukian and other local residents confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday that some shorts, indeed, were heard in the village the previous day. But the police have so far been unable to find any conclusive evidence of shooting at the scene, while Gasparian himself is said to be outside Armenia.
Political observers, meanwhile, have regarded the reported arrests and the recent unconfirmed shooting incident as some sort of ‘political pressure’ on the BHK which is said to be increasingly on competitive terms with President Serzh Sarkisian’s main ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) ahead of parliamentary elections due next May.
Speculations about possible rifts between the two coalition partners intensified after Levon Ter-Petrosian, the leader of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), expressed his readiness last week to cooperate with the BHK if it leaves the ruling coalition and openly challenges President Sarkisian.
The BHK leader has so far been noncommittal over the proposal, while other senior members of the party have left no indications that a withdrawal from the coalition with the HHK and the other junior partner, Orinats Yerkir (Rule of Law Party), was on the cards.
Still, senior BHK lawmaker Naira Zohrabian issued a statement earlier this week warning against an inquisition-style ‘witch-hunt’ against the party. Still, she also stopped short of explicitly blaming the HHK for the incidents.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday, HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov ruled out any ‘witch-hunt’ ostensibly ordered by the political leadership. “The political authorities of Armenia are doing everything to ensure that the principle of the separation of powers that is enshrined in the country’s Constitution is respected. I don’t think it requires any political assessment as it is up to the judicial power and the law-enforcement system to see to these matters.”
Sharmazanov emphasized that the HHK holds that no one – regardless of their party affiliations or kinship – must go unpunished for transgressing the boundaries of the law. “In our country the policies of President Serzh Sarkisian are such that no one must consider themselves above the law,” he added.
HHK deputy head Razmik Zohrabian also ruled out a pattern in the actions of the police. He, too, denied the existence of any differences between the HHK and its coalition partner.
“There is no political persecution against the BHK,” he said, suggesting that the party is not responsible for the drug addiction of its separate members.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday Armenian Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian also ruled out his agency’s meddling in politics, suggesting that the arrests in question were part of a routine police operation that simply happened to bust some members or supporters of a political party.