Demirchian Slams Government But Rules Out Move to Opposition

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Stepan Demirchian Tuesday renewed his criticism of the Armenian government over the recent firings of senior officials linked to his People’s Party of Armenia but refrained from bringing clarity in its continued involvement in the ruling coalition. Demirchian was understood to imply that the People’s Party does not plan to team up with the nationalist Right and Accord–a leading opposition group–for the time being.

Following a series of negotiations last month–the two organizations declared that their positions on a number of key issues coincide–adding to speculations about their imminent anti-government alliance. Still nominally part of the Unity bloc together with the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian–the People’s Party is increasingly critical of the government’s economic policy.

In an interview with RFE/RL–Demirchian condemned as an "unacceptable personnel massacre" Markarian’s recent decisions to dismiss three deputy ministers and several lower-ranking officials formally or informally affiliated with his party. He said the moves run counter to the principles of "tolerance and broad-mindedness" contained in Unity’s program. Some Republican leaders have publicly admitted that the firings were politically motivated.

Demirchian–who took over the center-left party shortly after the murder of its founder and his father Karen in last October’s attack on the Armenian parliament–insisted that his contacts with Right and Accord leaders do not mean that the People’s Party is about to form an opposition alliance.

He said: "The People’s Party is a cooperative force willing to negotiate [with other parties] over certain principles and concrete issues. But we don’t intend to run from one bloc to another."

Other party sources denied on Tuesday reports that People’s Party deputies of the parliament will throw their weight behind bills drafted by Artashes Geghamian–leader of Right and Accord.

Asked about his decision not to run for the parliament in next October’s by-elections–Demirchian replied that he has never said he wants to become a deputy or even parliament speaker as has been widely speculated. "The People’s Party’s political board guides our deputies–so there is no need for me to be in the parliament," he argued.

The controversial present speaker–Armen Khachatrian–also a People’s Party member–is under mounting pressure to resign.

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