Party Poopers: Powerful politicians split from Hanrapetutyun and Sargsyan

On Tuesday (September 6) seven of the 15 members of the political council of Hanrapetutyun political party, headed by a founder and former mayor of Yerevan Albert Bazeyan and former Minister of Defense Vagharshak Harutyunyan, announced their departure from the radical opposition party.

The influential council members do not intend to leave politics, but quitting the party will likely weaken party head (and former presidential candidate) Aram Sargsyan’s leadership chances as the opposition considers its chances in the 2007 elections.

Party member Gegham Haurtyunyan called Bazeyan’s and his supporters’ resignation a “heavy stab.”

“Our step is not a betrayal neither is it a stab,” Bazeyan countered to ArmeniaNow.

During a press conference at the National Press Club Bazeyan and Vagharshak Harutyunyan explained their resignation to journalists saying they have not agreed with the strategies of the party for the past year, including the party’s call for political revolution.

Neither have they been satisfied with the unrealistic evaluations the leaders of the party have given in the press.

“There was an impression as if the order for special presidential elections is already signed and soon (press secretary) Suren Surenyants will present it to (US President) Bush,” says Albert Bazeyan, referring to the widespread impression that party leader Sargsyan leans toward the West.

Vagharshak Harutyunyan claims that the resignations were the beginning of mass departure and the possible dissolving of the party. He says that as many as 75 percent of members have left Hanrapetutyan.

The party has approximately 6000 members and if Vagharshak Harutyunyan’s estimations are accurate, the party, in effect, no longer exists. According to amendments to RA Law “On Parties” of December 8th, 2004 “…a party must have not less than 2000 members.”

Sargsyan says Harutyunyan’s figures are not realistic. “Several members whose names were among those reported to have resigned have learned about it only from TV,” Sargsyan says.

But he added that he does not condemn those people who have followed Bazeyan, because he has considerable political power.

In a statement published by Bazeyan, he accused the party of trying to find a “scapegoat for its own misfortunes” and of “creating an atmosphere of mistrust inside the opposition”.

Media in Yerevan have commented that the split severely weakens Armenia’s already-ineffective opposition. And some have speculated that the reasons for the split include the fact that Bazeyan and Vagharshak Harutyunyan have a pro-Russian orientation, while Sargsyan is pro-US oriented.

Bazeyan says they have never declared that they see Armenia’s future only with Russia, and that his partners who remained in Hanrapetutyun consider themselves pro-American.

“I do not want to give personal evaluations. We (referring to Sargsyan) have passed a joint way, we are close to each other, there is something sacred in our relations (meaning the relationship with assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sarsgyan, brother of Aram Sargsyan),” he says. “Recently we tried to solve everything, but the others did not agree to compromise.”

Bazeyan says his supporters have left the party after being accused of hindering its activities.

“Hereafter Aram Sargsyan is free to create a new pro-American format and realize revolutions in color,” Bazeyan said sharply. “And we are for balanced relations with all countries.”

Bazeyan and Vagharshak Harutyunyan say they plan to form a new party that will closely cooperate with the major forces of the opposition.

Meanwhile Aram Sargsyan says this page of Hanrapetutyun is turned.

“Of course this is the heaviest attack we have ever had,” says Sargsyan, who helped found the party in 2001 “But everyone knows I have seen many hardships and tragedies and I have been able to overcome.”