By Hrach Melkumian
The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) argued on Tuesday that its controversial victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections entitles it to keeping the post of prime minister in the new government expected to be formed next month.
The HHK also signaled its readiness to strike power-sharing deals with two other major parties supporting President Robert Kocharian.
The party’s campaign chief, Galust Sahakian, told RFE/RL that the Republicans would like to see their leader, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, carry on his job. “We regard the post of prime minister as a top priority,” he said. “Our preferred prime minister is Andranik Markarian.”
The preliminary election results, announced by the Central Election Commission late on Monday, showed the HHK winning about 24 percent of the national vote. That means it will likely get 23 of the 75 parliament seats contested under the system of proportional representation. The HHK won an additional 17 seats in single-seat “majoritarian” constituencies.
The center-right party is also expected to enjoy the backing of more than two dozen ostensibly independent deputies elected in majoritarian races, putting it in a position to single-handedly pass laws. Most of those lawmakers are wealthy businessmen with close government connections.
Kocharian, who would apparently like to limit the HHK’s presence in Armenia’s leadership, suggested on the eve of the elections that his loyalists form a “coalition government.” The Republicans have so far sounded cool towards the idea.
Still, Sahakian indicated that the Republicans will be ready to give ministerial posts to the pro-Kocharian Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir parties if the latter back the government in the parliament and share responsibility for its policies.
The official vote results are seen as a major setback for Dashnaktsutyun, which hoped to loosen the HHK grip on power. Dashnaktsutyun, according to the CEC, won about 11 percent of the proportional vote and will have to content itself with only 11 parliament seats. It can count on the support of only three independent deputies.
A Dashnaktsutyun spokesman challenged on Monday the credibility of the official figures. But the party has made no official statements yet, even though its representative to the CEC pointedly refused to put his signature on the vote results.
Orinats Yerkir, by contrast, is poised to have the second biggest faction in the new National Assembly with at least 21 seats. Nine of them were won in the single-mandate constituencies. The party’s leaders have also declined a comment so far.
Orinats Yerkir, which the Armenian opposition claims is secretly sponsored by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, campaigned on a de facto opposition platform, harshly criticizing Markarian’s cabinet. The party also capitalized on the populist appeal of its 34-year-old leader, Artur Baghdasarian.