Strategies, Tactics, Reshuffling: Armenian Opposition Parties Get Re

STRATEGIES, TACTICS, RESHUFFLING: ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES GET READY FOR ELECTIONS
By Gayane Abrahamyan

ArmeniaNow
19.07.10 | 16:48

Analysis

Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s speech at the 16th Congress of Armenian National
Movement.

The opposition Heritage Party and Armenian National Movement (HHSh)
each held their congresses during the past two weeks; and while the
oppositionists call for a change of power in Armenia, leadership
changes have taken place within their own parties heralding the
launch of pre-election campaigns. (The next parliamentary elections
in Armenia are scheduled to be held in 2012).

The HHSh congress, held on Saturday, July 17, was preceded by serious
discord inside the party: first vice-chairman of the party Khachatur
Kokobelyan resigned followed by the resignation of Ararat Zurabyan, who
had been the party chairman for many years. Both of them were accused
of negotiating with the authorities. The speculation was that they were
negotiating over getting mandates for HHSh in the upcoming elections,
and over the possible release of oppositionists jailed on charges
stemming from their purported roles in the 2008 post-election unrest.

Armenian National Congress (ANC) leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan could not
overlook the recent developments within HHSh and reflected on them
in his speech periodically interrupted with applause: “The Armenian
authorities tried to influence HHSh’s internal matters and create a
gap between ANC and HHSh.

However, thanks to the vigilance of the majority of HHSh Administration
and Council members, the sabotage was revealed in time, and the
threat of ANC split is completely nullified,” said Ter-Petrosyan,
adding that HHSh became even stronger after this trial.

In HHSh, which became more active only after Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s
return to big politics in 2007, something unexpected happened: Vano
Siradeghyan, who had been wanted for 14 years, “resurrected”.

Two weeks ago, Hraparak (Square) daily published an article saying
that Ter-Petrosyan turned to Siradeghyan asking him “to interfere
into HHSh’s internal matters and influence Ararat Zurabyan, making
him obey.”

According to the same source (‘Hraparak’), Siradeghyan sent a letter
to Zurabyan, saying: “Don’t you know that the all-time chairman of
HHSh is Levon Ter-Petrosyan?!” appealing to him not to split HHSh
and to resign.

HHSh, naturally, refutes that information. However, former Minister
of Internal Affairs of Armenia, ex-chairman of HHSh administration
Siradeghyan, who is charged with masterminding a number of murders
in 1992-1996, and who was last spoken of in 2000, when the National
Assembly of Armenia allowed [law-enforcers] to detain him, was elected
an HHSh administration member on Saturday completing the 31-member
executive board of the party.

According to independent expert Yervand Bozoyan, HHSh needs a strong
leader, and perhaps this is the reason for bringing in Siradeghyan.

(The former influential politician and strongman has not come out of
hiding yet.)

“However, I do not believe that it will have tangible results; the
opposition has serious tactical shortcomings,” Bozoyan says.

The current tendencies indicate that the opposition is strengthening
its positions; however, there are no more grounds for unification.

Controversies between the two main opposition players- ANC and
Heritage – first emerged last year, during the municipal elections
in Yerevan, when the Heritage Party decided not to participate in
the elections because they were unable to come to an agreement over
a single candidate with ANC; as a result ANC failed.

Back then Heritage member Zaruhi Postanjyan stated: “ANC is not a
viable opposition force, and it does not enjoy public trust.” Later
she blamed Ter-Petrosyan for not being beside people on March 1, 2008.

A few months later discord started within Heritage party: founding
chairman Raffi Hovannisian gave up his parliamentary mandate, later
a few party members were dismissed from the party, mainly accused of
cooperating with ANC against Heritage.

On July 10, after Heritage’s extraordinary, or as they call it,
“watershed” congress, the executive board underwent a drastic change –
old members were replaced with new ones, and Raffi Hovannisian was
reinstated in his position as the formal party leader which he had
given up a year ago.

It is obvious that by means of calling congresses and creating
new executive boards, the opposition is preparing for the upcoming
elections, but it is also obvious that this time they are not going
to unite either.

After the congress Hovannisian expressed his hope that “the opposition
would have a single alternative candidate,” and if it is impossible
then “Heritage will think about its own candidate,” who, by the way,
according to Hovannisian, would preferably be a woman.

Hovannisian also stressed that “the upcoming elections must be out
of the triangle of the three presidents [Ter-Petrosyan, Kocharyan,
Sargsyan].” Hence, he excludes Ter-Petrosyan’s candidacy.

Soon after Heritage’s congress, opposition media were flooded with
different epithets in Heritage’s address – slimy, a pocket opposition,
authorities’ spy, etc.; and one of opposition leaders, convict Nikol
Pashinyan, raised the following question: “Where was Raffi Hovannisian
on March 1 [2008]?”

“It is clear that the opposition will not unite this time either,
and it will fail again. It is a matter of ambitions, and it will have
no solutions, for as long as personal issues are higher than state
interests,” Arshak Sadoyan, a former opposition lawmaker who, too,
failed to unite an opposition wing in 2008, told ArmeniaNow.

From: A. Papazian

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