President Levon Ter-Petrosian was obliged yesterday to accept the resignations of both Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian and Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian.
Siradeghian is also expected to resign very soon as chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (APNM) and of the Republic bloc in parliament. Siradeghian was the country’s most powerful politician and a key to securing Ter-Petrosian’s political base. He strongly supported the president’s recent shift to a flexible policy on Karabakh, but has apparently concluded that the president is unable or unwilling to defend that policy.
Arzumanian, who served barely one year as foreign minister, was considered an ally of the president. However, in his address last December to the annual meeting of foreign ministers of OSCE countries, Arzumanian — whether willingly or otherwise — adopted the position of hard-liners who oppose Ter-Petrosian’s policy on Karabakh.
In parliament the Yerkrapah group’s leader, Albert Bazeyan, announced yesterday that twenty-one deputies have defected to his group from the governing Republic bloc. Yerkrapah, which until now held some twenty-five seats in parliament, represents a powerful movement of 5,000 Karabakh war volunteers from Armenia proper, who have retained their arms and are organized under the Defense Ministry’s direct auspices.
Bazeyan yesterday attacked Ter-Petrosian and the APNM for rigging the 1995 parliamentary and 1996 presidential elections; admitted that Yerkrapah helped in perpetrating the fraud and in putting down protests; and concluded that his movement had made the wrong choice in supporting Ter-Petrosian, whom he now urged to step down. Last week, several deputies from the Intelligentsia group left the Republic bloc because of their disagreement with Ter-Petrosian’s and Siradeghian’s policy. The Republic bloc — consisting of the APNM and allied groups — appears to be unraveling. Democratic reformer Eduard Yeghorian, head of the Homeland group of pro-reform deputies, who left the APNM earlier, yesterday joined the establishment nationalist calls for both the resignation of Ter-Petrosian and new elections.
The National Democratic Union — centerpiece of the nationalist coalition that lost the rigged elections — has redoubled its agitation to bring about new presidential and parliamentary elections. From another segment of the political spectrum, the Intellectuals’ Initiative Russia-Belarus-Armenia is demanding the resignation of Ter-Petrosian because he opposes that group’s campaign to bring Armenia into the Russia-Belarus Union. The Intellectuals’ Initiative consists of prestigious national figures, long involved with Karabakh, and who hope that close relations with Russia will help Armenia solve the Karabakh problem in its favor.
The Communist party held a 20,000-strong rally in Yerevan and other rallies in provincial towns last weekend. It has called for a follow-up demonstration in Yerevan on February 7. Blaming social hardships on an "oligarchy" led by Ter-Petrosian and the ruling party, the Communists are calling for new elections, reversal of reforms and still closer relations with Russia than Armenia already has. (Noyan-Tapan, Snark, February 2)
These latest developments suggest that the ruling establishment and body politic increasingly regard Ter-Petrosian as the loser in the struggle for power with his rivals in the government: Prime minister Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and Internal Affairs and Security Minister Serge Sarkisian. This group has kept almost silent following Vazgen Sarkisian’s January 23 public and methodical attack on Ter-Petrosian and Siradeghian’s policies. That attack seemed to highlight the trio’s strength and the president’s vulnerability. It has prompted a growing number of officials and political groups to side with that trio, or — in some cases — to harden a preexisting anti-presidential stand. The president appears thus far to be the loser in this process.
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