Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Armenia's ANM Party Revives

Published in Field Reports

By Haroutiun Khachatrian (the 13/11/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The old Armenian National Movement party has been declared alive against the wishes of its leader, Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosian, expressed another view. On October 26, the event “Founding Congress of Armenian National Movement party” took place in Yerevan. Some 200 delegates representing five provinces (marzes) of Armenia declared, despite earlier statements to the contrary, that the old ANM party (HHSh in its Armenian abbreviation) has not been dissolved, and that their party is the only heir of the previous ANM. Members of the congress are now busy creating local party bodies, party registration, and other moves envisaged by the Armenian legislation. In contrast to most of the existing Armenian parties, the new party is said to have no leader.

The organization named ANM was originally created in 1988 and was reorganized into a party in the 1990s, when it constituted the ruling party during the early stages establishing Armenian independent statehood when the country lacked most of the necessary institutions, and moreover fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh. After President Ter-Petrosian’s resignation in 1998, ANM became one of the forces of the weak and fragmented Armenian opposition but managed to survive. In 2012 and 2013, ANM was declared dissolved and a new party was created under Ter-Petrosian’s leadership, named Armenian National Congress (ANC) and declared the heir of the ANM. ANC also has a 7–member faction in the National Assembly although most of its members are not members of the ANC party.

The revival of ANM can be considered another setback for Ter-Petrosian after his defeat against his main rival Serzh Sargsyan in the 2008 presidential elections, representing a failure of his plan to create a strong and united opposition bloc after the elections. The new party was created by a group of former ANM leaders, who are experienced politicians and do not share Ter-Petrosian’s approaches. In particular, Ararat Zurabian (no relation to the ANC’s current leader Levon Zurabian) was the chairman of the ANM board for most of the period when the party was in opposition. Zurabian is famous due to the fact that as the only opposition candidate, he managed to be elected Mayor of a Yerevan district in the early 2000s (elections were at the time held in the in districts and not in the whole city). Zurabian and other members of the board, a 14-member body that was elected at the congress, of the new ANM believe that the ANM created in 1988 had right-wing ideology. The new party is said to be a real right-wing organization, whereas its leaders claim that ANC has shifted to a left-wing ideology.

As for the issue currently most actively discussed in Armenia, the new party strongly favors Armenia’s integration with Europe and criticizes the Armenian leadership for its September 3 statement on Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Custom Union, which endangers the country’s perspective of signing an Association Agreement with the EU. Alexander Arzumanian, also a Board member of the new ANM who has formerly served as Armenia’s foreign minister and representative at the United Nations, said he was not convinced that Russia would be successful in forming a real Custom Union and in creating a Eurasian Union.

Members of the new ANM believe that the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement to be initialed in Vilnius in late November is a way for Armenia to move towards European standards. ANC has not yet clarified its position on this issue, but it seems to agree with the authorities, at least partially, that joining the Customs Union will enhance the country’s security. Clashes between ANM and ANC are possible in the near future on these and other matters. It has previously been difficult to imagine a struggle between Ter-Petrosian and ANM, but the appearance of any new party in Armenia’s political opposition inevitably leads to a struggle. It is also possible that ANM may choose to align with other right-wing parties.

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