By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Raffi Hovannisian, the US-born former foreign minister of Armenia, officially announced the creation of a new civic organization on Tuesday, signaling plans to enter active politics ten years after his resignation.
The group called the Civic National Initiative (KAN) held a presentation for journalists at its newly built headquarters in Yerevan. Its governing board, which includes several prominent public figures, said the KAN will strive to promote civic activism and public participation in the political life.
"We want to involve Armenian citizens and the public in state and public processes," Hovannisian said in a welcoming speech. "We will take no steps without having the public's support and heeding its suggestions and criticism."
Hovannisian, who served as independent Armenia's first foreign minister in 1991-92, did not rule out the organization's transformation into a political party. "We will decide together what should happen next," he told reporters. Asked about his possible candidacy in next year's presidential elections, the ex-minister replied: "I have no such intentions yet."
Hovannisian, who had supported President Robert Kocharian's rise to power in 1998, is increasingly critical of the current Armenian authorities. Last summer, shortly after abandoning his U.S. citizenship, Hovannisian accused Kocharian of ignoring his application for Armenian nationality for political reasons. He was granted an Armenian passport shortly afterwards.
Officials in Kocharian's administration claimed at the time that Hovannisian wanted his Armenian citizenship to be backdated to 1991, something which would have allowed him to run for president in 2003. Armenia's constitution stipulates that only an Armenian citizen who has "permanently" resided in the country for the ten preceding years can run for president. The threshold for candidates in parliamentary elections is five years.
The KAN, further highlighting its political aspirations, said it will soon publish its own newspaper and draw on research conducted by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, a think tank founded by Hovannisian in 1994.
The former minister on Tuesday again criticized Kocharian over the scandalous closure of the A1 Plus television. He voiced his support for opposition parties campaigning for A1 Plus's return to the air, but said their activities should be "more organized, flexible and constructive."