A parliament deputy from Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) suggested on Friday that mass resignations of BHK members in the southern Ararat province were engineered by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
At least two dozen local BHK members have quit the party represented in the Armenian government by four ministers in recent days. Among them was Karen Khachatrian, deputy head of the BHK chapters in the towns of Ararat and Vedi.
Khachatrian was appointed as chief of Ararat’s police department on Wednesday, a fact which stoked speculation that the BHK’s senior partner in the ruling coalition was behind the defections. HHK representatives deny those claims.
Speaking at a news conference, BHK deputy Vartan Bostanjian was asked whether he believes the defections resulted from pressure exerted on his party by the HHK. “According to common sense and ethics, such a thing should not happen,” Bostanjian said. “But you talk about that a lot. That probably corresponds to reality.” He refused to comment further.
Relations between the two governing parties appear to have been strained since September. Tsarukian has reportedly been under pressure from the presidential administration to reaffirm explicit support for Sarkisian’s reelection in 2013. Tsarukian, who is also a wealthy businessman, has still not done that in public.
Last November three men reportedly linked with the BHK were arrested by police on charges of illegal drug possession. Some BHK representatives said that the arrests could be politically motivated. Leaders of the two parties insisted afterwards, however, that there are no major disagreements between them.
Aram Safarian, another BHK deputy, on Thursday joined the two opposition parties represented in the National Assembly in demanding that speaker Samvel Nikoyan organize parliamentary hearings on a major voting reform sought by the opposition but rejected by the HHK. Safarian cautioned that the BHK leadership has not yet decided whether or not to support the opposition calls for the forthcoming parliamentary elections to be held only on the party-list basis.
Bostanjian denied that Safarian’s move was a BHK warning to the Republicans. “We don’t engage in such intrigues or make hasty decisions,” he said.