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Armenia Party Denies Foul Play Against Dissident Member

Karapet Rubinian (file photo)

Karapet Rubinian (file photo)

YEREVAN -- An Armenian opposition party has strongly denied any stifling of dissent within its ranks and the ostracizing of a prominent member critical of its de facto leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Karapet Rubinian resigned from the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) earlier this week, accusing Ter-Petrossian of imposing his will on a party that governed Armenia from 1990 to 1998.

Rubinian claimed the ex-president pressured delegates not to elect him to the HHSh's governing board at a party congress last weekend. He believes this was done as retribution for his criticism of the political strategy of the main opposition alliance, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), which the HHSh is aligned with.

However, Aram Manukian, who was elected board chairman after the congress, dismissed the allegations. "I really regret that statement made by Rubinian," he said at a news conference. "I just want to ask: would Rubinian have made such a statement if he had been elected to the board?"

Manukian revealed that Rubinian, who had served as deputy parliament speaker throughout the 1990s, lacked only 30 votes in his bid for board membership. "Of all those members who were not elected [to the board], he got the largest number of votes," he said.

"If there was a conspiracy to prevent him from getting elected, how come 240 or so HHSh delegates dared to vote for Rubinian?"

Rubinian, who has led an HAK task force campaigning for the release of jailed Ter-Petrossian loyalists, again declined to comment on July 21. He told RFE/RL that he would answer Manukian's "very good questions" next week.

Rubinian's resignation has prompted concern from Aleksandr Arzumanian, another veteran HHSh figure who served as foreign minister in 1996-98 and managed Ter-Petrossian's campaign in the 2008 presidential election.

"In his statement, Karapet Rubinian raised the alarm, and I hope that the newly elected board will address those issues because it's not just Karapet Rubinian who is talking about that," Arzumanian told RFE/RL. "After all, one of the main characteristics of the HHSh is that as a liberal party, we have always welcomed debate, dissent, and a variety of views."

The weekend HAK congress convened one month after the party's previous chairman, Ararat Zurabian, and his deputy, Khachatur Kokobelian, stepped down in circumstances that remain unclear. The two men were allegedly accused by Ter-Petrossian of secretly collaborating with the government.

Ter-Petrossian, who maintains a strong influence over the former ruling party, gave more credence to that theory with his speech at the congress. He said the authorities "tried to exert influence within the HHSh and cause a rift between the party and the Armenian National Congress."