The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) welcomed on Thursday the Prosperous Armenia Party’s impending withdrawal from the government, saying it that it will deal a serious blow to President Serzh Sarkisian.
A senior representative of the bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian said the development also vindicates its controversial decision to cooperate with Prosperous Armenia (BHK) in the recent parliamentary elections.
“The decision by the Prosperous Armenia Party shows that the government monolith that showed cracks ahead of the elections is now falling apart,” it said in a statement," Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Political developments in the country show that the HAK’s strategy that was adopted in October 2011 and aimed at eroding the political monopoly of Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party … was an accurately calculated step that is contributing to the regime’s political isolation.”
Ter-Petrosian said in April that the BHK has caused a major rift within the country’s political leadership and predicted that this will have “very important” political ramifications. He said the HAK’s election-related cooperation with the BHK “could radically change the configuration of political forces.”
Some senior HAK members and activists openly disagreed with this line, pointing to BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s reputedly close ties with former President Robert Kocharian. The latter is reviled by many HAK loyalists for ordering a deadly crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement in 2008.
Nevertheless, the HAK leadership pressed ahead with working together with the BHK as well as another major opposition force, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), in the run-up to and during the May 6 elections. A joint structure set up by them monitored and criticized the Armenian authorities’ handling of the vote.
That cooperation has been condemned by the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, the third opposition group to win seats in the new National Assembly. Zharangutyun leaders have repeatedly claimed that Tsarukian’s party itself is involved in irregularities such as vote buying. Some of them, notably Stepan Safarian, have gone as far as to allege secret collaboration between Ter-Petrosian and Kocharian.
Safarian insisted on Thursday that the BHK will not be in opposition to President Sarkisian despite refusing to join his new government. He said that an open confrontation with the government would be too risky for Tsarukian and his wealthy loyalists.
“I can’t imagine that in a country like Armenia big business will leave the government and remain as protected as it has been in the government,” Safarian told reporters.
Safarian speculated at the same time that the BHK might cut a secret deal with Sarkisian to help him win a second term in next year’s presidential election. In that case, he said, the BHK would field a presidential candidate tasked with stealing votes from genuine opposition contenders.
Hrayr Karapetian, a senior Dashnaktsutyun figure, suggested that the BHK may still endorse Sarkisian despite not being part of the government. But, he added, the BHK’s refusal to back the incumbent president’s candidacy is also a real possibility.
“The course of further political developments depends, in part, on which option Prosperous Armenia will prefer,” Karapetian told a news conference.