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Armenian Opposition Leaders Dismiss Talk Of Coalition Rift

Recent reports suggest tension between President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party its main coalition partner, the Prosperous Armenia Party of businessman Gagik Tsarukian (pictured).
YEREVAN -- Leaders of the two opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament have dismissed media reports about mounting tensions within the country's ruling coalition, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Recent reports in newspapers critical of the government have said that President Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party (HHK) are increasingly at loggerheads with their main coalition partner, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian.

They claimed that Sarkisian wants to weaken the BHK and even reduce its presence in the next National Assembly due to be elected in 2012. Some have even alleged growing friction between the president and his predecessor, Robert Kocharian, who is believed to be close to Tsarukian.

The speculation intensified after Tsarukian ordered his party figures and structures last week to step up their political activities "at all levels." But the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Heritage (Zharangutyun) Party treat the reports with skepticism.

"There is so much talk of that. I don't believe in such disagreements," Vahan Hovannisian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, told journalists on September 28. He added that he is "a skeptical person."

Armen Martirosian, a leading member of Zharangutyun, agreed, saying that possible differences between the two governing parties will not develop into an "acute confrontation." He said he thinks they will "reach agreements."

Martirosian argued that Tsarukian cannot afford to feud with Sarkisian because of his extensive business interests. "In our country, wealthy businessmen just can't be too far away from the government," he said.

BHK and HHK leaders have similarly denied having any major differences on numerous occasions. "Our relations are normal and will remain normal until the next elections," the HHK's deputy chairman, Razmik Zohrabian, told RFE/RL on September 28. "We will see what happens after the elections."

"There are some forces in Armenia, especially in the opposition camp, that are trying to make much ado about nothing," Zohrabian said.