By Armen Zakarian
The leader of the Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party, Artur Baghdasarian, acknowledged on Saturday that he does not object to becoming the speaker of Armenia’s new parliament and securing other senior posts for his allies.
Baghdasarian, whose party will have the second largest faction in the National Assembly, is reportedly President Robert Kocharian’s preferred candidate for the job. However, his candidacy does not enjoy the full backing of two other major parties supporting Kocharian, hampering a post-election deal on a new Armenian government.
Asked about his chances of becoming parliament speaker, Baghdasarian said: “Everything depends on the outcome of the political negotiations.” He said the new speaker must have relevant political experience and be a consensus builder, implying that he meets those requirements.
“No political force has an absolute majority in the parliament,” the 34-year-old leader said in an interview with RFE/RL. “There has to be a process of political consultations and the truth should emerge from it.”
The strongest opposition to Baghdasarian comes from the ranks of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), the winner of the May 25 elections. The HHK will have 39 seats in the parliament against 22 seats obtained by Orinats Yerkir. Several newly elected Republican deputies told RFE/RL that they will not vote for Baghdasarian even under strong pressure from the presidential administration. They insisted that the parliament be headed by a member of their party.
Orinats Yerkir’s well-funded election campaign was largely based on strong criticism of the current HHK-led government. Baghdasarian charged in one of his campaign speeches that Armenia is governed by a corrupt “party of money,” prompting accusations of populism from both the Republicans and the Armenian opposition.
The position of the third pro-Kocharian party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), on the issue is less certain. Sources familiar with the ongoing inner-government bargaining claimed on Saturday that the presidential administration has offered the Dashnaks to run three government ministries and two Armenian regions in return for backing Baghdasarian. They have also been promised the posts of deputy speaker and chairmen of two parliament committees, the sources said, adding that a similar package has been offered to Orinats Yerkir.
Baghdasarian made it clear that his party must be represented in both the executive and legislative branches, but would not detail its expectations. “No agreement on the government’s composition has yet been reached because the talks are still going on,” he said.