Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian again reached out to Armenia’s second largest governing party on Thursday, downplaying its alleged links with former President Robert Kocharian and reacting positively to former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s decision to join it.
Addressing thousands of supporters rallying in Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian reaffirmed his readiness to cooperate with businessman Gagik Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
“If Oskanian’s membership in Prosperous Armenia deepens disagreements within the ruling coalition and contributes to the BHK’s growth as a fully independent political force, then his step can only be welcomed,” he said.
Commentators agree that Oskanian’s move was a further indication that Tsarukian is increasingly at odds with the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), his senior coalition partner led by President Serzh Sarkisian. Some of them, especially those sympathetic to the opposition, link it to Kocharian’s perceived efforts to return to the political arena and challenge the current president. Oskanian was an important member of the Kocharian administration in 1998-2008.
Ter-Petrosian deplored such speculation, saying that it is spread by “supporters of conspiracy theories.” “By terrifying the people with the specter of Kocharian, they contribute to the strengthening of Serzh Sarkisian’s dictatorship,” he told the rally held in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
The leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) insisted that Tsarukian’s and Oskanian’s presumably convivial relations with Kocharian are “totally devoid of political content.” “Robert Kocharian is a sunken ship while Serzh Sarkisian a sinking one, and a political force that ties its fate to them cannot choose a shorter path to its demise,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian publicly floated the idea of the HAK’s cooperation with Tsarukian’s party last November. He said it “could radically change the configuration of political forces” in Armenia ahead of the May 2012 parliamentary elections. The BHK did not accept or reject these overtures at the time.
In his latest speech, Ter-Petrosian spoke of the HAK’s unfolding “constructive dialogue” with the BHK as well as the rival opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun party. He referred to the joint opposition efforts (tacitly backed by the BHK) to have the upcoming elections held only on the party-list basis. He said the four political groups are now in a position to work out an “effective joint mechanism” for preventing vote rigging.
The HAK leader, who had served as Armenia’s first president, was very critical of both Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun in his speeches last year.