The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) might again cooperate with former President Robert Kocharian, a top leader of the party represented in Armenia’s current government said on Wednesday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Hrant Markarian also said that both Kocharian and another former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, are to blame for deadly street violence that followed a disputed presidential election held in 2008.
“We are prepared for cooperation with everyone, with all Armenians, but we have neither a decision nor an agenda to specifically cooperate with Kocharian,” said Markarian.
Asked whether he is not ruling out cooperation with Kocharian, he said: “Why should I? I neither intend [to cooperate] nor exclude that.”
Markarian would not say whether his party expects the ex-president to return to the political arena. “It’s up to him to decide, I really don’t know,” he said.
Dashnaktsutyun was allied to Kocharian throughout his 1998-2008 rule. The latter lifted Ter-Petrosian’s controversial ban on the party’s activities in Armenia shortly after becoming president.
Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in Armenian communities abroad, also reached power-sharing deals with Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian, in 2008 and 2016. It went on to receive two ministerial posts in the current government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Dashnaktsutyun criticized as politically motivated Kocharian’s arrest late last month on charges stemming from the breakup of the 2008 post-election protests in Yerevan which left eight supporters of Ter-Petrosian and two police personnel dead. Commenting on the criticism at the weekend, Pashinian said Dashnaktsutyun is free to decide whether to remain part of his cabinet.
Kocharian, who was released from custody on Monday, stands accused of using the armed forces against the protesters in the wake of the disputed ballot in which Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition candidate. He strongly denies the charges, saying that Pashinian is waging a “vendetta” against him. Pashinian played a key role in Ter-Petrosian’s 2007-2008 opposition movement.
“The blame for those 8-10 victims, regardless of who shot at them, lies with everyone: with Levon Ter-Petrosian and also Robert [Kocharian,]” said Markarian. “It doesn’t matter who opened fire. What matters is who created that situation.”
“At that time we warned both the [Ter-Petrosian-led] and Robert Kocharian not go down that dangerous path but they didn’t listen to us … They deliberately opted for that and got what they got,” he said.