YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and former Foreign Ministers Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian set up on Monday a new opposition alliance which they said will seek to come to power as a result of Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
The bloc will comprise Oskanian’s Hamakhmbum (Consolidation) and Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) parties as well as several other, smaller groups. A joint declaration signed by its three top leaders calls for the formation of a “new type of government” in the country.
“Today the number one obstacle to the development, prosperity, stability and security of Armenia is the current authorities,” Oskanian told reporters at the signing ceremony. “We are convinced that with our joint efforts and with the help of our people we will win.”
“Today is a historic day in the modern history of Armenia,” Hovannisian said for his part. “We are sure that this illegitimate government is living its last days,” he claimed.
Hovannisian, who served as Armenia’s first foreign minister in 1991-1992, made a final decision to join forces with Oskanian and Ohanian at the weekend over strong objections voiced by some senior members of his party. The dissenters say Zharangutyun must not team up with the two former ministers because they both were involved in former President Robert Kocharian’s deadly 2008 crackdown on opposition protesters.
Oskanian was a key member of the Kocharian administration, having served as foreign minister throughout the ex-president’s 1998-2008 rule. Ohanian was the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff during the 2008 crackdown that followed a disputed presidential election. He became defense minister shortly afterwards.
President Serzh Sarkisian sacked Ohanian in October as part of a government reshuffle. The former defense chief announced his decision to participate in the April 2 parliamentary elections later in 2016. He has increasingly criticized the state of affairs in the country since then.
Ohanian again called for “systemic changes” in Armenia as he formally entered into the electoral alliance with the two opposition leaders. He said their bloc’s main objective is to “form a government.”
The three former ministers were also due to be joined by Victor Dallakian, who resigned as a deputy chief of Sarkisian’s staff in October. Dallakian announced his Third Republic party’s withdrawal from their alliance earlier on Monday, however, saying that he was excluded from the top ten positions on its list of election candidates.
Dallakian claimed that General Samvel Babayan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former top military commander, presented the pecking order and urged him to accept it when they met on February 6. “I rejected Samvel Babayan’s proposals,” he told a news conference.
“Babayan represents [Oskanian’s] Hamakhmbum and lobbies for Hamakhmbum,” added Dallakian.
Tert.am cited Babayan as essentially confirming these claims. He said he is backing the new opposition bloc to help “save this country.”
Babayan, who is critical of Armenia’s current leadership, led Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army from 1993-1999. Ohanian was the chief of the army staff during most of his tenure. Babayan criticized Ohanian’s sacking in October.
Babayan’s involvement in the bloc could stoke media speculation about its ties to Kocharian. The ex-president, who has had a close rapport with the once powerful Karabakh general, is also unhappy with the current authorities in Yerevan. He has not yet commented on the upcoming elections.