HZhK MPs Widen Revolt Against Demirchian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The turmoil in the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK)–one of the country’s leading political groups–deepened on Wednesday when several more members of its parliamentary faction joined the revolt against the HZhK leadership–denouncing its increasingly anti-government stance.

Nine members of the 20-strong faction warned that HZhK Chairman Stepan Demirchian–will face a "serious danger of a split" unless he stops "discrediting" those party leaders that stand for continued cooperation with the authorities. In a joint statement–the deputies effectively backed the accusations made by Parliament Speaker Armen Khachatrian–who ended his membership of the center-left party on Tuesday.

The statement condemned the HZhK’s "political council" for demanding last week–that Khachatrian and his deputy Gagik Aslanian be expelled from the party’s larger and more powerful board because of their support for government initiatives opposed by Demirchian. "In order to stave off the serious danger of a split we find it necessary to discuss the party’s strategy and activities of the political council at the upcoming meeting of the HZhK board," it said.

As the main decision-making body of Demirchian’s party–the 117-member board can overturn any decision taken by the council. The board is scheduled to meet on Thursday for a debate that could determine the party’s future.

While stepping up his attacks on the authorities–Demirchian–who inherited HZhK leadership from his late father Karen Demirchian in the wake of the 1999 parliament shootings–has so far avoided a final rupture with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK). But political analysts now view the break-up of their Miasnutyun (Unity) alliance as a forgone conclusion.

Recent press reports have said Demirchian increasingly considers joining forces with several opposition groups — a line approved by many rank-and-file HZhK activists but opposed by party members holding senior government posts. Speaker Khachatrian has accused Demirchian of cooperating with "forces seeking to destabilize the political situation in the republic."

Aslanian told reporters on Thursday–that the HZhK should "remain a constructive party." He refused to speculate on whether he and the other signatories of the statement will quit the party if they fail to win the board’s support.

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