STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–Two Armenian political parties with a long history and worldwide activities are opening branches in Nagorno-Karabakh–politicians in Stepanakert said on Thursday. Two senior members of the Karabakh parliament are spearheading efforts to set up local organizations of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party and the Armenian Democratic League (Ramkavar Azatakan Party).
The two century-old parties were forced into exile with the establishment of Soviet rule on the territory of the present Republic of Armenia in 1920. Having become firmly entrenched in ethnic Armenian communities across the world–they reestablished their presence in Armenia in 1990 along with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–the strongest Diaspora group.
The ARF quickly became a dominant force in Karabakh being in the forefront of the region’s secessionist drive against Azerbaijan. Arkady Soghomonian–chairman of the Karabakh parliament’s committee on social security–is now heading an "organizing committee" preparing for the founding congress of the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party of Artsakh.
In an interview with RFE/RL–he said the existence of a social democratic party has "strategic importance" for Karabakh. He said the party will participate in parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
The other organization–Ramkavar Azatakan Party of Artsakh–held its founding congress in Stepanakert on Thursday. It is led by Boris Arushanian–chairman of the parliament committee on foreign affairs. Karabakh law prohibits activities of parties governed from abroad and the two parties are therefore technically separate organizations.
The Communist and ARF parties have until now been sole parties registered in the self-proclaimed republic. Most Karabakh leaders have no party affiliation. Political circles also expect another group–called the Christian Party of Artsakh–to come into existence in the near future.