YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation says it is ready to cut a new power-sharing deal with President Serzh Sarkisian almost seven years after withdrawing from his governing coalition, a leader of the party said on Tuesday.
ARF Bureau chairman Hrant Markarian said Sarkisian offered ARF to rejoin the Armenian government during talks with senior party representatives held over the weekend.
“There has been a proposal — and we have accepted it in principle — to the effect that we should cooperate in putting the [recently amended Armenian] constitution into practice,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatyun.am). “But there has been no other [more detailed] discussion yet.”
Markarian declined to specify whether ARF will enter into a new coalition before or after Armenia’s next parliamentary elections due in 2017. He did note, though, that “a real coalition can be formed after the parliamentary elections because parties should need each other for having a majority in parliament.”
The ARF was represented in Sarkisian’s government by three ministers until April 2009. They all stepped down in protest against Sarkisian’s Western-backed policy of rapprochement with Turkey.
The party known for its hard line on Turkey grew increasingly critical of government policies in the following years, joining forces with other opposition groups to challenge the Sarkisian administration. But it effectively stopped cooperating with them in late 2014 as the Armenian president pressed ahead with a controversial constitutional reform envisaging the country’s transformation into a parliamentary republic.
The ARF, which has long favored the parliamentary system of government, has strongly supported the reform. It disagrees with critics’ claims that the proposed constitutional changes would only enable Sarkisian to stay in power after completing his final term in 2018. It has also dismissed opposition allegations that the December 6 referendum on those changes was rigged by the authorities.
Markarian said ARF’s return to the government would be in tune with its stance on the constitutional reform. “Today we cannot fail to bear responsibility for implementing that constitution,” he said. “That is why we are ready to cooperate.”
The ARF leader seemed to acknowledge that a new deal with Sarkisian could be resented by many supporters of his party. “I do realize that in today’s moral-psychological atmosphere joining the coalition would not be beneficial for us,” he said. “But we now need the courage to share that responsibility [for government policies.]
“I see no other way of changing the situation in this country. We should change it both from within and from outside.”