Two leading opposition parties made clear on Tuesday that they will continue to cooperate with Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) despite renewed speculation about his close ties to former President Robert Kocharian.
Tsarukian gave more weight to those suggestions when he publicized a warm congratulatory message on Kocharian’s 60th birthday anniversary marked on Sunday. The tycoon praised the ex-president’s decade-long rule during which he became one of Armenia’s richest men. An Armenian TV controlled by Tsarukian went on to air a very sympathetic documentary on Kocharian’s track record.
In an interview with a Russian-Armenian newspaper published on Friday, Kocharian again did not rule out his return to active politics. Observers have long regarded the BHK, which has the second largest parliamentary faction, has his main power base.
Top representatives of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun party, which are highly critical of Kocharian, downplayed the renewed talk of his comeback and said it will not affect their growing cooperation with Tsarukian’s party. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another opposition party represented in parliament, has also been part of that cooperation.
“There is no Robert Kocharian factor in the quartet’s relationships, plans and agenda,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“I don’t comment on what others will attempt or will not attempt to do,” Zurabian said when asked about Kocharian’s plans. “We have no such program and are confident that neither do our partners. Our discussions are very open and no such issue has ever been issued during our discussions,” he added.
Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, claimed that Kocharian stands no chance of returning to power because he committed “political suicide” when ordering a deadly post-election crackdown on HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement in March 2008.
“No matter how much they attempt to link the four parliamentary forces with Kocharian it is evident that there is no such connection,” said Martirosian. “Robert Kocharian is not on our common agenda.”
Other opposition figures not affiliated with any of the four parties are unconvinced by these assurances. Alexander Arzumanian, a former foreign minister who managed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential election campaign, claimed that Kocharian personally set up the BHK while in power and remains closely connected to it. “There has been no separation between that party and Robert Kocharian. We need a lot of time to see evidence to the contrary,” he said.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Arzumanian warned that the HAK and Zharangutyun therefore risk contributing to Kocharian’s “political rehabilitation.”