Split Within Armenian Coalition Party Deepens

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK)–the governing Republican Party’s partner in the Miasnutyun bloc–faced more defections on Friday – only one day after its embattled leadership quelled a revolt by several members of the parliament from the HZhK.

The HZhK faction in the parliament lost another member when Deputy Manvel Badeyan said he is quitting the party over its board’s refusal to rule out alliances with the opposition. Observers anticipate that more lawmakers–including Deputy Speaker Gagik Aslanian–will follow the suit in the coming days.

At an emergency meeting that ended late on Thursday–the 117-member board reaffirmed its support for the political line of its chairman–Stepan Demirchian–who is increasingly making overtures to radical opposition parties seeking to oust President Robert Kocharian. It also expelled Aslanian and some of the rebel deputies from its ran’s.

Simmering tensions between opponents and proponents of continued cooperation with the authorities flared up into an open confrontation late last week when the party’s smaller "political council" demanded the removal of Parliament Speaker Armen Khachatrian from the board. Khachatrian responded with a strongly-worded statement accusing Demirchian of "diverging" from the policy of his late and father and predecessor Karen Demirchian. The speaker formally ended his membership of the HZhK on Tuesday.

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