The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) pulled out of the ruling coalition in 2009 not only because of strong objections to President Serzh Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey, a leader of the opposition party claimed on Thursday.
Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of its governing body in Armenia, said Dashnaktsutyun was also frustrated with the Sarkisian administration’s failure to carry out sweeping political and socioeconomic reforms.
Dashnaktsutyun cited only “insurmountable fundamental disagreements” with Sarkisian on Turkish-Armenian relations when it quit the government in April 2009. The move came four days after the Armenian and Turkish governments announced a “roadmap” to gradually normalizing bilateral ties.
That announcement was in turn made one day before the annual April 24 remembrance of some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks during World War One. Dashnaktsutyun and other critics of the ill-fated normalization process believe that the timing was meant to make it easier for U.S. President Barack Obama to backtrack on his 2008 pledges to recognize the massacres as genocide.
“[Turkey] was only one of the reasons [for Dashnaktsutyun’s withdrawal,]” Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Seeing that despite being part of [ruling] coalitions we were incompletely solving problems important to us, we decided to quit the coalition.”
Rustamian argued that his party therefore has a moral right to criticize Sarkisian’s track record in office during ongoing parliamentary election campaign. “We are not dodging responsibility,” he said. “We just want our detractors to be fair.”
“After all, we had only 12-13 percent [of the vote] and we did many things commensurate with that [share,]” added the Dashnaktsutyun leader. “But we did not succeed because … the dominant force, the [coalition] majority did not accept approaches and arguments advanced by us. They did not accept the need for changes because they did not want to abandon the system which unfortunately remains our main scourge to this day.”
Dashnaktsutyun entered into a power-sharing deal with Sarkisian’s Republican Party and two other parties following the February 2008 presidential election and the ensuing deadly government crackdown on the opposition. It received three ministerial portfolios in Sarkisian’s cabinet.
The party was also represented in the executive branch during much of former President Robert Kocharian’s 1998-2008 rule.