By Atom Markarian
President Robert Kocharian expressed on Friday optimism about the success of Armenia’s first-ever coalition government formed by his political allies and held out hope for dialogue with the opposition.
Kocharian said the recent power-sharing agreement he struck with the three largest pro-presidential parties will benefit the country, citing the example of developed Western nations that have for decided been run by multi-party coalitions.
“I have a gut conviction that we will manage to achieve positive results here,” he said, dismissing speculation that the deal involving the Republican, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties is unlikely to be long-lasting. Speaking to journalists, he also made it clear that a lot depends on the relationship between the three parties which together control the majority of seats in the parliament elected on May 25.
Kocharian was the main architect of the post-election arrangement which allowed him to retain his direct control over the security apparatus and the crucial ministries of defense, foreign affairs and justice. Six other ministries are headed by members or supporters of the Republican Party of Prime Minster Andranik Markarian, while Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir got three cabinet posts each.
Three parties have had uneasy relations in the past, but now say that they are committed to implementing their joint government program approved the National Assembly on Friday. The four-year plan promises, among other things, to substantially reduce poverty and ensure continued economic growth. Kocharian described it as “realistic.”
The Armenian leader also sent fresh signals about his desire to defuse a bitter standoff with the opposition engendered by his hotly disputed reelection earlier this year. He noted in particular that the authorities and the opposition could find common ground on issues like foreign policy and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He at the same time ruled out the appointment of opposition leaders to senior government posts.
The two main opposition groups represented in the parliament, the Artarutyun bloc and National Unity Party, refuse to recognize the official results of this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Their deputies have been conspicuously absent from the opening sessions of the legislative body. Both opposition forces now promise to end the boycott before the start of its autumn session and push for a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian suggested by the Armenian Constitutional Court.
Kocharian again shrugged off the idea.