Armenia's Yerkrapah ["paramilitary volunteer"] Union, a public organization without political status, is becoming a political party by merger. The move amounts, in practice, to Yerkrapah's absorption of the small, nationalist Republican Party, which gives the Union that party's name and, therefore, its legal status.
Yerkrapah has emerged this year as the country's most influential political factor. Headed by Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, Yerkrapah is said to have some 5,000 active members, residents of Armenia proper, who fought in the Karabakh war and retain their weapons. It had a small parliamentary faction, which suddenly ballooned last February when deputies of the former ruling majority defected in droves to Yerkrapah. The latter--and Sarkisian personally--played a key role in ousting former President Levon Ter-Petrosian from power and placing Robert Kocharian in the presidency.
The Republican Party's current leader, Andranik Markarian, confirms that Yerkrapah and the Republicans deem each other ideologically compatible. Founded underground during the Soviet era by militants for Armenian independence, the Republican Party later sent volunteers to fight in the Karabakh war. It has opposed any concessions to Azerbaijan--or to the OSCE mediators--in the negotiations to settle the conflict. The merger increases even more the influence of Yerkrapah, which holds a plurality of the seats in the National Assembly, two ministerial posts and most of the provincial governorships, quite apart from Sarkisian's operational control of the army. (Noyan-Tapan, Respublika Armenia, July 20 and 21)
TBILISI PREPARED TO ENTRUST BORDER PROTECTION TO REGIONS AND MINORITIES.