Former Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has traded verbal barbs with President Serzh Sarkisian following his unexpected decision to leave the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) ahead of parliamentary elections.
Abrahamian, who has played a crucial role in the HHK’s previous election campaigns, announced his exit this week more than four more months after his dismissal, which was part of a major government reshuffle. He has still not given a clear reason for the move.
Some Armenian commentators have speculated that he quit the party because he sees no prospect of being again appointed to a senior position anytime soon.
Sarkisian appeared to allude to Abrahamian as well as former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who is poised to join an opposition alliance, when he spoke at a meeting of the HHK’s governing body late on Thursday. He said that “skills and capabilities, rather than ambitions” are the main criteria for the choice of HHK candidates for government and parliament positions.
“Nobody should feel offended,” he went on. “Our members are where they are needed. I will never tolerate excessive tussles.”
The president also implied that individuals leaving the HHK stand no chance of succeeding in the political arena. “You know, major rivers ensure progress along their entire riverbeds,” he said. “They bring life, nutrition and water, and those rills that break way from a river and do not re-enter the same stream shortly afterwards will dry up and vanish.”
“This is a law of nature and none of us can go against laws of nature,” warned Sarkisian.
Abrahamian responded to these remarks the following day. “The river and rill metaphor was a good one,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I liked it. But let us not forget that rivers are amalgams of self-forgetful rills. As soon as industrial waste from factories flows into a river and sullies the entire riverbed the whole thing will become of no use.”
“Perhaps the breakaway rills still carrying the smell of their land will manage to bring life to a couple of settlements before becoming extinct,” concluded the ex-premier.
Abrahamian again did not clarify whether he plans to join another party or bloc to participate in the parliamentary elections slated for April 2. He said on Wednesday that he will “continue to actively engage in politics.”
Abrahamian, whose wealthy extended family holds sway in the town of Artashat and surrounding villages south of Yerevan, was one of the HHK’s most influential figures even before he was appointed prime minister in 2014. He has managed the party’s presidential and parliamentary election campaigns since 2008.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, insisted on Friday that Abrahamian’s departure will not weaken the party headed by President Sarkisian. “There are many HHK figures who are very good at organizing election campaigns,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“With all due respect for our former partner Hovik Abrahamian’s contributions, it’s not that the Republican Party suffered defeats when Hovik Abrahamian was not its election campaign manager,” he said.