ARF leader discusses party agenda

Following its first press conference in January 1996, several interviews have been granted by the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun Supreme Council of Armenia. We present excerpts from two interviews conducted by Anna Israelyan (a Radio Liberty correspondent in Armenia) and by Narineh Dilbaryan (a reporter of the Lragir Or daily of Yerevan), with ARF-Dashnaktsutyun Supreme Council of Armenia member Levon Mkrtchyan.

AI: The latest information on the status of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was that after the six month [suspension] period expired, the Justice Ministry filed a new petition with the Supreme Court. This time the matter entailed an additional one year suspension of the party’s activities. But all the deadlines, it seems, have passed. The Justice, who was given the responsibility of administering this matter, Alvina Gyoulumyan, was appointed to the Constitutional Court. Thus the issue of the ARF’s suspension was unresolved. Is the party undertaking any measures in this regard?

Levon Mkrtchian: You answered the question in your preface. In essence, the suspension is presently not legal. It was clear, that the ARF’s suspension was first and foremost tied to political considerations. The Supreme Council views the suspension from exactly that perspective. In our evaluation, subjective factors played a relatively larger role in the suspension process. There is a whole slew of mutual misunderstandings. This mess must be cleared up and it can’t be resolved in an instant. Various political factors are also at play here, such as the presidential elections, the so-called “Dro” and Vahan Hovanesyan trials…

The Supreme Council must try to incrementally resolve these subjective matters because, in our view, there is no objective basis for the ARF in Armenia not to be operational. The geopolitical situation, and the ARF positions and basic values, in our view, make the legal operation of the ARF in Armenia absolutely essential.

A.I.: Is there a basis for views that the ARF’s position in relation to the authorities has become significantly more temperate?

L.M.: We can refer here to a more expansive issue – ARF relations vis-a-vis the authorities, which could fill an interview on its own.

Presently, the Supreme Council is following a clear path of a balanced policy, free of rhetoric, intended to re-establish the ARF in Armenia as a guarantor of state independence and a party safeguarding national statehood. The ARF, during critical periods for our republic’s existence, has demonstrated that Armenia’s political stability is an absolute and supreme value for it. The present political priority for the Supreme Council is to lead the ARF activities in a direction that will guarantee that stability, in order to create the prerequisites for building a national state. This is the ARF’s political line. If this is viewed as more temperate, then so be it.

A.I.: Is this belated attempt to moderate positions and to begin negotiations or a bilateral dialogue? Are there signs from the authorities that they are ready to participate?

L.M.: Relations between the ARF and the Armenian authorities have been diverted far from their natural course, and the confrontation has intensified so much, that it is too early to hope that simple talks or negotiations would lead to proposals for mutual concessions.

On our part, to clearly express our intentions we’ve held press conferences, granted interviews and there have been speeches by Bureau members. The ARF’s strategy was presented clearly during those public announcements and is being implemented accordingly. The authorities must take a stand on this course. Meaning, all this is not being done merely to begin a dialogue or end a suspension.

The ARF finds that its role in Armenia will be of a balanced, stable party which holds certain national values in high esteem. This was resolved by the World Congress. It is the role of the authorities to react to these processes, or to begin such a process themselves.

A.I.: We increasingly see, in the media, announcements by ARF members that the activities of the Supreme Council are insufficient. You are accused in particular of being sluggish, which disrupts the organization from getting back on its feet quickly, which may cause “the ARF’s place on the political spectrum to shrink.” How prevalent is dissatisfaction among the ranks?

L.M.: There are those who intend to pit the ARF’s current leadership and the ranks against each other, to create so-called “wings” in the ARF. With absolute responsibility, I state that factions, as such, do not exist in the ARF. There is one goal and one program.

A World Congress has just convened, there is a clear political course, but there are also personal interests. And it is sad that there are a few in the party whose priorities are strictly economic interests, political careers and other matters.

N.D.: As potential allies on the left of the Armenian political spectrum, with whom are you likely to establish closer ties?

L.M.: In addition to critical national issues, the ARF Program also emphasizes the creation of a social order based on social justice. Only a strong, secure society, free of extreme social polarization and led by principles of justice, can pave the way to our supreme goal, which is rebuilding an independent state on all the territories of the homeland. The ARF’s socialism emanates from this principle.

Our party has, from the outset of this century, participated in the Socialist International and currently has stable and friendly relations with socialist and social-democratic parties in many countries.

Unfortunately, as in other CIS nations, parties with socialist leanings in the Republic of Armenia often pursue marginal aims and do not have the necessary base or depth.

We develop our relations with those political forces whose national and social objectives assist in the construction of a state based on independence, democracy and social justice.

N.D.: Has the absence of a pronounced leader prompted the ARF to align with parties with pronounced leaders, in order to fill the gap?

L.M.: The leader issue has been generally discussed frequently over the past few years. Truly, it is hard to imagine politics without any leading figures to conduct it. In this sense, I think, there needs to be a distinction between a leader and a “fuhrer” type figure.

Leaders are born during work. They cover ground, organize-lead within their sphere. There exist real, active policies, and there exist real leaders. Policies, views coalesce, and the aforementioned type of leaders continue to lead – some as leftists, some as rightists, some as nationalists, some as internationalists. In regard to alignment, more correctly, there is cooperation. It was already noted that the Supreme Council is attempting to develop relations with other parties, pursuing much more important and critical issues.

N.D.: In Armenian political life, the imminent presidential elections [scheduled for September 1996] will be a critical event. What does the ARF foresee itself doing during this electoral season?

L.M.: Naturally, many forces are attempting to define the ARF’s position on this matter. Our party, despite its suspended status, has significant influence and authority within the republic’s electorate. The Supreme Council has already begun efforts, including compilation of necessary information and research into the positions adopted by various parties. As presidential elections near and in conjunction with the ARF’s return to normal operations, our position will become clearer.

A.I.: Lastly, when will the Supreme [ARF] Assembly of Armenia convene to provide more elaborate responses to these issues and also decide the method of participation in the presidential elections?

L.M.: During these months our efforts have been concentrated on developing political platforms and making organizational preparations, so that the Supreme Assembly will convene well before the one year deadline given by the World Congress to the Supreme Council.

The presidential elections are so important that the appointed Supreme Council does not feel it has the moral right to resolve that matter. Developed options will either be evaluated at the Supreme Assembly, or there will be a party conference for the party to establish its position after considering the views of the rank and file.

The Supreme Assembly will convene in early summer.

ARF News
February-March 1996, Volume 1.2(2)