Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 202

The balance of political forces which took shape in Armenia when Robert Kocharian became president earlier this year, and which seemed to promise internal political stability, shows signs of breaking down. On October 31 in Yerevan the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun (ARFD), a major ally of Kocharian, staged a 15,000-strong rally designed to warn the president of a possible withdrawal of the ARFD’s support. Addressing the rally, Dashnak leaders criticized Kocharian, directly or indirectly, for “selling the national wealth cheaply” in controversial privatization deals, for failing to prosecute the “mafia” of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (APNM, the governing party from 1991 to 1998) for alleged enrichment at the expense of the state, and for resisting the ARFD’s and other parties’ demand to dissolve the “unrepresentative” parliament and to call pre-term elections.

While approving of Kocharian’s shift toward a harder line on Karabakh and his efforts to obtain recognition of a “Turkish genocide,” the ARFD leaders stressed their differences with the president, concluding that “the population’s hopes in the Kocharian presidency are not being borne out.” Unless the president carries out his electoral program, “the ARFD will launch a struggle alongside the people for the fulfillment of that program.”

The APNM, currently the main opposition party in parliament, upped the ante by announcing its withdrawal from the Political Council attached to the Armenian presidency. Kocharian and his allies created that body last spring as a consultation and conciliation mechanism open to all parties, most of whom had been virtually excluded from parliament in the rigged elections of 1995. However, the Political Council itself is now becoming unrepresentative through the boycott or withdrawal of the opposition parties–APNM, the right-wing National Democratic Union, the Communist Party and others. Almost all the parties, not just the ARFD, want pre-term elections and a new electoral law based on the proportional representation of electoral slates.

Kocharian is now caught between two fires as the most powerful parliamentary grouping, Yerkrapah, opposes pre-term elections and insists on an electoral law based on the majoritarian principle and single-mandate constituencies. This system would guarantee Yerkrapah’s primacy for years to come. Yerkrapah is directly controlled by Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, who together with Internal Affairs and State Security Minister Serge Sarkisian deposed former president Levon Ter-Petrosian from office and installed Kocharian.

Complicating matters for Kocharian even more, the two Sarkisians (who are not related to each other) seem currently locked in a competition for power. Calls are mounting for splitting the Internal Affairs and Security Ministry against Serge Sarkisian’s resistance (Noyan-Tapan, Hayots-Ashkar, AP, October 30-31).