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New bloc in Armenia: former ministers to fight their way thorugh?

On Feb 13, former defense minister of Armenia Seyran Ohanyan and former foreign ministers Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian signed a memorandum to form an electoral bloc. Their goal is to change the ruling regime and to lead Armenia towards prosperity. This is, at least, what the author of this initiative, Oskanian, promised while signing the memorandum.

In 2015, when the leader of Prosperous Armenia Gagik Tsarukyan quitted politics, Oskanian was one of the first to follow him. Later, he formed the Unity party and is now going to run for the parliament.

When in Sept 2016 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan decided to change the Cabinet, Ohanyan was not reappointed as defense minister. As a result, he turned into an oppositionist. He later joined Oskanian and said that very soon they might ally Hovannisian. Many were skeptical about that bloc as it was strange to see radical oppositionist Hovannisian in the same camp with former ministers.

Concerning one of the most tragic pages of Armenia’s past, Mar 1 2008 - public disorders that claimed 10 lives - Ohanyan said that they would do their best to correct the mistakes of the past.

Initially, the bloc was supposed to involve more politicians. One of the first to back up Ohanyan were the leader of Third Republic, deputy head of the Serzh Sargsyan Administration Viktor Dallakyan and the leader of the Democratic Party of Armenia Aram Sargsyan (who was the foreign policy advisor of second President Robert Kocharyan in the late 1990s). But later both broke away from Ohanyan. Dallakyan’s argument was that his initiatives concerning the bloc’s activities had been declined.

“We had agreements that might benefit our people and country. But he has retracted the agreements, so, I have decided to stop our partnership,” Dallakyan said, adding that he did a lot for bringing Ohanian and Tsarukyan together but he failed as Ohanyan appeared with very ambitious initiatives.

In an interview to EADaily, expert on the South Caucasus Viktor Yakubyan said that Dallakyan’s mission might be just to neutralize Ohanyan by pulling him into Tsarukyan’s bloc – a force that is closely controlled by President Sargsyan.

Before the signing of the memorandum, Haykakan Zhamanak, a daily that has recently been serving the president’s interests, said: “Seyran Ohanyan has had no direct contacts with the leader of Third Republic Viktor Dallakyan and the leader of Unity Vartan Oskanian of late. And quite recently he even said that he might refuse to run for the parliament. One of the reasons may be the comeback of Gagik Tsarukyan, who will certainly outshine Ohanyan. The second possible reason is that Robert Kocharyan has realized that this bloc will not be efficient and has given up on it. As a result, lots of politicians have broken away from the bloc. Aram Sargsyan did it yesterday. Viktor Dallakyan is expected to do it shortly. Some sources say that he was just the 5th on the party’s list, which is not fair.”

Obviously, the daily is trying to crush the bloc in the bud and it has succeeded as though formed, that force does not involve those who tried to merge it with Tsarukyan’s bloc.

Tsarukyan’s comeback will make things much harder for the Ohanyan-Oskanian-Hovannisian bloc. Tsarukyan and his party are playing on Serzh Sargsyan’s side and are killing Robert Kocharyan’s hopes to have a loyal parliamentary force in Armenian politics. Tsarukyan’s second coming may be his revenge on Kocharyan for not standing up for him during his conflict with Serzh Sargsyan. In fact, Tsarukyan is picking up all those thrown away by the ruling Republican Party before the elections. We are witnessing the separation of business from politics: with politics remaining in the Republicans’ hands and business placed under Tsarukyan’s guarantees. The only problem is that Tsarukyan’s guarantees mean nothing without Serzh Sargsyan’s “insurance policy.” Ohanyan, Oskanian and Hovannisian do not trust this policy and this is exactly why they have formed a bloc.

Hovannisian’s motive is that though polling over half a million votes during the presidential election 2013, he failed to capitalize on them. It took Serzh Sargsyan just one meeting to neutralize him. How much less Hovannisian’s got for his compliance is still a secret.

The key question now is whether Robert Kocharyan will come to the surface before and after the elections and whether he will support the bloc. According to Yakubyan, the co-founders of the bloc would like to know Kocharyan’s position on their initiative. Otherwise, it will look just like some alliance of unfortunates or a spoiler meant to neutralize the protest votes.

After breaking away from the bloc, Dallakyan said that one of its founders was Samvel Babayan, former Defense Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, who is very close to Kocharyan. This is one more proof of Kocharyan’s hand in all this affair. Babayan did not refute Dallakyan’s words and said that he was doing all he could for leading Armenia out of the current situation. Oskanian said that he was not aware of the processes outside the negotiating format. His words show that Babayan may be the puppet master of the bloc. So, all this may just be a banal fight for seats in the new parliament, which, according to the new constitution, will be the center of new political decisions and new refusals to answer for them.

EADaily’s Yerevan office

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