2005-06-16 – Dashnaks Maneuvering For Position

by on 2005/06/16  •  In Wikileaks


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05YEREVAN1054 2005-06-16 12:46 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 001054 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2015

REF: 04 YEREVAN 1678 

Classified By: Amb. John M. Evans for reasons 1.4 (b, d). 


1. (C) The Armenian Revolutionary Faction (ARF) Dashnak
party, as one of the central members of Armenia's governing
coalition and allied with Minister of Defense Sargsian and
President Kocharian, has been flexing its not inconsiderable
muscle on the political landscape and pushing its message and
agenda more aggressively.  The Dashnaks have renewed their
efforts to obtain international "Genocide Recognition" and to
enhance their public profile leading up to the 2007-2008
elections (likely to be improved by a strong Dashnak showing
in legislative elections in Nagorno-Karabakh June 19).  As
the party moves to sharpen its image, both within Armenia and
abroad, Dashnak rhetoric is only likely to become more
extreme, as the party looks to play a message that works with
its target audience.  End Summary. 


2. (C) In marked contrast to President Kocharian's stated
official GOAM policy which pursues diplomatic relations with
Turkey "without preconditions," Dashnak international
organization leaders again called publicly for holding Turkey
"accountable" for the deaths of Armenians in the final days
of the Ottoman Empire, during their June 3-4 meeting.
Although the press characterized the Dashnak statements as a
change in policy, National Assembly (NA) Dashnak leader Levon
Mkrtchyan told us that there had been no change, but that the
party was simply articulating its long-held position more
forcefully.  While noting that the President has the
constitutional right to set foreign policy, Giro Manoyan,
spokesman for the Dashnak party's international bureau, told
us that they would raise the issue in upcoming coalition
meetings.  (Note:  In separate meetings, former National
Security Service Chief David Shahnazarian and current
Presidential Security Advisor Garnik Isagulyan each
emphasized the continuing close relationship between the
Dashnaks and both Minister of Defense Serzh Sargsian and
President Robert Kocharian.  End Note.)  Manoyan confirmed
for us that the Dashnak position is that Turkey should be
required to "return territory" and to pay compensation.
(Note:  Manoyan underlined the fact that this position is
identical with the Dashnak-affiliated Armenian National
Committee of America (ANCA).  In a June 8 meeting with the
Ambassador, local ARF bureau representatives lamented losing
their "close contact" with the White House, and expressed
hope that Washington policy makers would be seeking out their
opinions on a wide range of issues.  End Note.) 

--------------------------------------------- --
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3. (C) Senior Dashnak politician and Deputy Speaker of the
National Assembly Vahan Hovhanissian appears to be burnishing
his image as a potential presidential candidate for 2008.  We
see recent (positive) speculation about his candidacy in
Dashnak-controlled media outlets and ARF sniping at one of
the few serious presidential candidates, National Assembly
Speaker and Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party leader
Artur Baghdasaryan (and former protege of Minister of Defense
Sargsian), as a indication that the Dashnaks may be testing
the water.  Hovhanissian, an archaeologist who suffered under
the Soviets when his father defected to the West in the 1960s
and was imprisoned along with other extreme nationalists
under former president Ter-Petrossian's regime, commands a
modest personal following.  Although not tainted by excessive
scandal, and able to take full advantage of the superior
Dashnak party organization country-wide, Hovhanissian has
only limited personal charisma and would be unlikely to do
well in the elections. 


4. (C) With the coalition led by the Dashnaks and Movement-88
(currently in opposition in N-K, and made up of many former
Dashnaks) likely to win a plurality of seats in the upcoming
June 19 "parliamentary" elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, we
expect to see a stronger Dashnak hand in the governing
coalition in Armenia, and also anticipate a hardening of GOAM
positions in regard to N-K due to an emboldened Dashnak
party.  The current party of power in N-K, the Democratic
Party of Artsakh (DPA), lost Dashnak support when the ARF
left the N-K coalition following a tiff with N-K "president"
Ghukasian in 2004 when he failed to "punish" an N-K general
who had called for territorial concessions in order to
resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Shahnazarian told us
that he expects widespread election fraud in the upcoming
elections, and claimed that Sargsian, Kocharian and the
Dashnaks wanted to ensure that Ghukasian was weakened enough
to gain additional leverage over him and to keep him from
contemplating a political role in Armenia. 


5. (C) As one of the few Armenian political parties with an
ideology, the Dashnaks are well positioned to take advantage
of an electoral landscape filled with parties linked to one
or another uncharismatic leader and are positioning
themselves to play a greater role in Armenian political life
in the future. 


6. (SBU) Founded in 1890 in Tbilisi by Armenian nationalist
and socialist revolutionaries who operated in the Caucasus
and Western Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) was first registered in Armenia July 2,
1991.  The party was subsequently banned December 28, 1994,
but the GOAM lifted the ban in 1998 (citing changed
political circumstances).  Key figures include Hrant
Margarian, Vahan Hovhannisian, Armen Rustamian, Levon
Mkrtchian, and Aghvan Vardanian.  The ARF operates two
newspapers, "Yerkir" (Country) and "Hayots Ashkharh" (The
Armenian World).  ARF controls 11 out of 131 seats in the
National Assembly. 

7. (SBU) The ARF-Dashnaktsutyun has been the most popular
"traditional" party and the most active political force in
the Armenian Diaspora.  The Dashnak Party ruled the first
Armenian Republic of 1918.  In 1920, it ceded power to the
Communist Party.  Many Dashnaks fled Armenia, while others
were repressed.  The Dashnak Party was banned in Armenia
during the Soviet period.  The growth of glasnost during the
last few years of the USSR allowed the Dashnaks to
reestablish themselves in Armenia in 1988.  Nevertheless, the
main ruling body of the party, the Bureau, remains in Athens,
Greece.  From the outset, the Dashnak Party was the major
opposition force to the Armenian government in power.  On
December 28, 1994, President Ter-Petrossian banned the party
by decree.  He accused the party of criminal activities, drug
trafficking, assassinations, and fostering of terrorist groups
(the so-called "Dro" clandestine organization.)  The
President's decree was followed by a decision of the Supreme
Court to suspend the Party in January 1995 since it did not
comply with the country's laws banning party membership of
non-Armenian citizens.  Several ARF leaders spent several
years in jail (including Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vahan
Hovhannisian and the President's National Security Advisor
Garnik Isagulyan).  After Ter-Petrossian's resignation in
February 1998, then acting president Kocharian released ARF
leaders due to the "changed political situation." 

8. (SBU) The Dashnak Party is a socialist-nationalist party.
It sees its ultimate goal as
pursuing "The Armenian Cause," worldwide recognition of the
Armenian genocide, and integration of Western and Eastern
Armenia into one powerful state.  Traditionally, party
activities have not been transparent.  In the course of its
history, the party carried out a number of "revenge acts"
against Turkish diplomats and other citizens.  The ARF
supports the independent status of Karabakh and any decision
to promote its independence.  Members of the ARF fought
actively in the Karabakh conflict and the party had its own
military units.  Later, when Karabakh and Armenia formed
regular armies, some of the Dashnak units merged with the
armies, others were disarmed.  The ARF remains a major
political force in the Armenian Diaspora, and retains a wide
support base in Armenia, especially among the youth.

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