ARF Leaders Discuss Elections, Future

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Speaking at a joint news conference, Armenian Revolutionary Federation leaders were vague on chances of the ARF remaining in the Republican Party-led government, saying only that they will continue to support President Robert Kocharian. We have supported the current president, and the current president continues to perform his duties, one of them, Armen Rustamian, said. We will continue that cooperation. We have received no offers to form a coalition, he said. Frankly we dont think the picture in the new National Assembly leaves room for such an offer. We do not need symbolic coalition, which will be non-constructive. Indeed, weve gone a long way with the Republican Party of Armenia and we do not exclude cooperation. We are ready to cooperate with all parliamentary forces, said Rustamian. He explained the concept of a single-party government, and opined that most likely Armenia was headed toward that direction in the months preceding the February presidential race. Single-party government has its advantages and disadvantages. The entire basis is that only one political force carries the responsibility of everything that takes place in the country. And it is difficult to predict how well it will succeed, added Rustamian said. The ARF leader also stated that the ARF considered the 180,000 votes that were given to the party were a conscious political choice and thanked its supporters. We assess these elections as a gradual increase of the ARFs influence in the country." Rustamian told the news conference that his party appreciated high voter turnout, but he expressed regret that the authorities failed to thwart some instances of wrongdoings, such as forced voting and distribution of election bribers. Nevertheless, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation deems the election to the National Assembly accomplished and recognizes the preliminary results, he said. Referring to the violations on election days, Rustamian announced that certain parties did not stand behind their responsibilities within the electoral committees. Those political parties that sold their places in the committees, who withdrew under pressure or fear, who were unable to control the situation were punished during these elections and they are not in the parliament today, announced ARF Bureau member and Deputy-speaker of the outgoing National Assembly Vahan Hovannesian. He added that those who committed fraud were also punished. Citizens who voted because of bribes were also punished during this election, and will have a taste of that in the future. He assessed the oppositions participation in the election by outlining that they received 30 percent of the votes, adding that an effective alliance between opposition forces would have ensured them a greater opportunity in the parliament. Their failure to unite cost them representation in the legislature, added Hovannesian. The ARF is not going to be the fifth wheel in the government. We have been supporting the President of Armenia’since 1998 and will continue to do that until 2008, added Hovannesian. He said the ARFs presence in the ruling coalition in 2003 was a necessity, since neither of the parties succeeded in becoming the majority. Currently we have quite a different apportionment of forces and the Republican Party will hardly turn to us with a request to participate in the government. At least, we have not received such a request up to this moment, added Hovanessian. He also expressed that the ARF ministers in the government worked honestly, and their accomplishmen’s alone played a decisive role for the people during elections. All votes cast for us were because we did not sink to bribery and intimidation, said Hovannesian. The ARF ran a compaign based on an electoral platform promoting social justice, increased pensions and minimum wages, which would have been attained through a concerted effort against corruption, as well as economic growth based on export-oriented manufacturing. A Republica Party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told reporters on Tuesday that the ruling party had not yet decided whether it should share power with the ARF and the Prosperous Armenia Party. The Republicans have repeatedly said that they are ready to form a coalition for the sake of Armenia’s future, he said. We already have such experience with the ARF.

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