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Dashnaktsutyun goes the other way: a new coalition taking shape in Armenia

This week member of the Bureau of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun Hrant Margaryan said that his party had negotiated with Armenian President and leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) Serzh Sargsyan for establishing a new coalition with a view to coordinate efforts for implementing the constitution.

According to Margaryan, despite rumors, Dashnaktsutyun received no offers to form a coalition in Dec 2015. “Now that we have supported the new constitution, we cannot but be responsible for its implementation,” he said.

He cannot say when exactly the coalition will be formed. Nor did he say if the seven terms laid by his party had been fulfilled. In fact, the RPA has fulfilled only the points concerning transition to parliamentary rule and 100% proportional elections. The new constitution has a point about stable majority – a guarantee that the ruling regime will retain its positive parliamentary majority, which is now secured by MPs from majoritarian constituencies.

The president has not fully implemented even the point concerning the Armenian-Turkish protocols – the issue that caused Dashnaktsutyun’s withdrawal from the coalition in 2009. Last February, he withdrew them from the parliament but he did not remove his signature from them.

The requirements concerning mechanisms to separate business from government, to ensure independence of the judiciary, to conduct large-scale economic reforms have been ignored.

The Dashnaks do comprehend how much they will be criticized for their alliance with the RPA. “I perfectly realize that we will face criticism... This requires courage and responsibility. But I see no other way for us to change something from both inside and outside,” Margaryan said.

They in the party hope that their reputational losses will be compensated for by new parliamentary seats in 2017. One of the oldest Armenian parties and one of the most popular ones in the Diaspora, Dashnaktsutyun is the only political force in Armenia whose membership does not depend on its presence in the government, money or the personality of its leader.

Now that Armenia has transited to the parliamentary rule, the next elections will be crucial for its future. This is why the Dashnaks decided to support the Republicans’ initiative and broke away from their partners, Prosperous Armenia, Armenian National Congress and Heritage.

Political strategist and analyst Vigen Akopyan has told EADaily that Dashnaktsutyun has several options: to form a coalition after the elections or to act jointly with the RPA during the ballot. The third option is political cooperation.

The key reason why the RPA wants to form a coalition is that despite having a majority in the parliament, the party seeks to control the leading political parties as well. “They just want to hug them to death by giving them just a little role in the coalition instead of leaving them on their own,” Akopyan said.

Though accused of cooperation with the ruling regime, Dashnaktsutyun still has its own policy. The other parties are very predictable in their views – they are against any initiative by the RPA. First advocating parliamentary rule, Prosperous Armenia, Armenian National Congress and Heritage opposed it as soon as that was suggested by the RPA. Later Prosperous Armenia was forced to change its view.

Such inconsistency put them even lower in the eyes of the people, who are now silent to their calls for mass protests.

Today, the Armenian opposition has very few supporters and is unable to mobilize crowds - even though most of the people in Armenia are displeased with the activities of the ruling regime. For oppositionists outside the parliament the only way to draw public attention is to keep provoking clashes with police.

Perhaps, seeing the inability of the other opposition forces to resist the ruling regime, Dashnaktsutyun has decided to go the other way and to make both internal and external changes. Despite the hopes of his opponents, President Sargsyan, as a real chess player, knows his moves better. So, Dashnaktsutyun may well end playing according to his rules in exchange for a couple of seats in the parliament and a place in the ruling coalition. Under President Kocharyan, Dashnaktsutyun was also part of the ruling coalition.

So, we can expect Dashnaktsutyun to be just an extra opposition force during the next year’s elections.

Hayk Khalatyan, political analyst, specially for EADaily

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