The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) defended on Monday its decision to expel from its ranks three activists who refused to join anti-government protests staged by the opposition party last month.
The expulsions were announced on November 28 shortly after two of the young activists criticized Dashnaktsutyun’s leadership in Armenia in an interview with Armenian Public Television.
“The decision was made not because they did not participate in the demonstrations but because they publicly criticized the party,” said Kristine Vartanian, one of the leaders of Dashnaktsutyun’s youth wing. “That is forbidden by our statutes. Whether the statutes are good or bad is a different question. These are the statues which we have and must comply with.”
Another leader, Arshak Petrosian, likewise argued that they had vowed to stick to the strict party discipline when joining Dashnaktsutyun.
The ousted university students publicly objected to the recent protests which the pan-Armenian party’s youth wing organized in a bid to force Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian to resign. One of them, Artak Melikian, claimed on Monday they were punished not only for favoring a dialogue with Harutiunian but also for disagreeing with Dashnaktsutyun claims that the arrested former President Robert Kocharian is a political prisoner and opposing fresh parliamentary elections demanded by party leaders.
Melikian and the two other dissident activists were among the signatories of an open letter circulated on behalf of Dashnaktsutyun’s student organization last week. The letter claimed that the party’s former top leader, Hrant Markarian called for “guerilla strikes” against the Armenian government at a party gathering held in October. The current party leadership accused the signatories of distorting Markarian’s statements.
Melikian also claimed that Markarian continues to lead the pan-Armenian party almost one year after resigning as head of its top decision-making body, the Bureau, following Dashnaktsutyun’s failure to win any seats in Armenia’s new parliament elected in December 2018.
The resignation was announced at the start of a Dashnaktsutyun convention in Nagorno-Karabakh during which Markarian was reportedly blamed by some delegates for the party’s poor showing in the elections. They allegedly claimed that Dashnaktsutyun paid the price for its close ties with the former Armenian government ousted in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018.
Markarian, who headed the Bureau for nearly two decades, blasted the “inner-party opposition” during the convention.