By Armen Zakarian
President Robert Kocharian predicted on Wednesday that political parties supporting him will control Armenia’s new parliament and form a “coalition government” as a result of Sunday’s elections. He also made it clear that he will not go to great lengths to secure voters’ approval of his proposed constitutional changes.
“I anticipate that as a result of the elections the political forces supporting me will have enough mandates in the National Assembly to carry out large-scale work on the implementation of election programs,” Kocharian told a news conference in Yerevan.
“It’s likely that there will be a coalition government,” he said. “The post of prime minister will depend on the opinion of the largest [parliamentary] faction.”
Kocharian refused to comment on the possible make-up of the next cabinet, saying that it will depend on the outcome of the polls. But he did single out the three largest pro-presidential forces -- the Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir. He noted that they have a “cadre potential” for filling the ministerial posts.
The three parties have exchanged strong verbal attack during the past three weeks of campaigning, deepening cracks inside the presidential camp. But Kocharian played down differences among them, saying that he believes they will eventually reach a power-sharing agreement.
He also denied reports in the pro-opposition press that the Armenian authorities have already decided the composition of the National Assembly regardless of the election results. Kocharian, who is still reeling from allegations of vote rigging that marred his recent reelection, claimed that the authorities will do their best to hold the elections in a “quiet” manner.
The United States and the Council of Europe have warned that a repeat of serious irregularities reported by Western observers during the presidential election could further damage Armenia’s international reputation. Sunday’s vote and constitutional referendum are therefore expected to face tighter scrutiny from both the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Kocharian indicated that he is prepared for the defeat of his sweeping amendments to Armenia’s constitution. “This is a case where we will have no losses in case of their passage or non-passage,” he said. “I would like the amendments to be approved but will not seek to impose them on the people at any cost.”
Kocharian says that the proposed changes would curtail his sweeping constitutional powers. However, his political opponents argue that the president would only gain more powers in return for giving up some ceremonial functions.