President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) pledged to jointly confront “internal and external challenges” facing Armenia as they formalized a controversial power-sharing deal on Wednesday.
Sarkisian attended the signing of an “agreement on political cooperation” between the two parties before announcing presidential decrees that gave Dashnaktsutyun three ministerial posts almost seven years it pulled out of his former coalition government.
Artsvik Minasian was appointed as minister of economy, while two other prominent Dashnaktsutyun members, Davit Lokian and Levon Mkrtchian, will take over as ministers of local government and education respectively. Dashnaktsutyun representatives will also run the northwestern Aragatsotn and Shirak provinces.
Mkrtchian, who has already as served as education minister in the past, replaced Armen Ashotian, an HHK deputy chairman who signed the agreement on behalf of the ruling party.
“This agreement marks the beginning of long-term political cooperation based on common values and joint goals and action plans,” Ashotian told the press after the signing ceremony held at the presidential palace in Yerevan and attended by Sarkisian.
The 5-page agreement commits the two parties to democratizing Armenia, strengthening the rule of law, speeding up the country’s economic development, tackling corruption and improving broader governance. It makes clear that Dashnaktsutyun, which holds 5 seats in the 131-member Armenian parliament, will share responsibility for all government policies.
Dashnaktsutyun and Sarkisian’s party specifically pledged to ensure the conduct of democratic elections “credible to the public,” boosting legal safeguards for judicial independence, and setting up an “effective mechanism for combating corruption.” They also pledged to “separate business from government” and pursue an “active ant-trust policy” on the economic front.
Under the framework accord, they will form a “cooperation council” that will serve as a forum for “regular inter-party contacts” and “exchange of views.” The council will meet on a regular basis.
“We believe that through this cooperation we can bring about the kind of change that our society will see and have positive expectations and more faith in the future,” said Aghvan Vartanian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader who signed the deal.
He repeated Dashnaktsutyun’s main declared rationale for rejoining Sarkisian’s government: proper implementation of recently enacted constitutional changes envisaging Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government. The party has strongly supported those changes, saying that they will help to address many of the country’s problems.
Political groups remaining in opposition to Sarkisian dismiss such statements. One of them, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), claims that Dashnaktsutyun is only anxious to retain its modest presence in the parliament by benefiting from fraud and government resources in next year’s parliamentary elections.
HAK leaders also have also accused Dashnaktsutyun of turning a blind eye to serious fraud reported during the December 6 referendum on the constitutional amendments.
Speaking to journalists, Vartanian insisted that the power-sharing deal with Sarkisian will not make his party less popular. He also denied media claims that Dashnaktsutyun chapters in Armenian Diaspora communities abroad disapprove of the political strategy adopted by the party leadership in Armenia.