By Shakeh Avoyan
The three political parties making up Armenia’s governing coalition have not discussed the question of who will succeed President Robert Kocharian and will not do so until after the next parliamentary election due in 2007, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said Wednesday.
“There is still two or three years left [before the next elections]. What are you talking about?” Markarian told reporters. “The coalition has still to finish its work in 2007, [one year] before the presidential election. Only after 2007 can we discuss that.”
“We don’t know if the coalition will be working in 2007,” he said ambiguously.
It was not clear if Markarian thus hinted that the current Armenian cabinet comprising members of his Republican Party (HHK) and two other pro-presidential parties may not last until the next parliamentary vote. Some local commentators consider Kocharian’s recent decision to give Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian, Armenia’s unofficial deputy premier, additional powers as a prelude to Markarian’s eventual sacking.
Kocharian completes his second five-year tenure in 2008 and the Armenian constitution bars him from seeking a third term. Kocharian allies have said that he will not try to abolish this restriction at a constitutional referendum expected later this year.
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian is widely seen as Kocharian’s preferred successor. The HHK as well as its coalition partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir Party, have so far refused to comment on Sarkisian’s possible presidential bid.
Markarian also indicated his unease over U.S. President George W. Bush’s strong endorsement of popular revolts that toppled the ruling regimes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the last 18 months.
Echoing his comments made during the May 9-10 visit to Tbilisi, Bush said last week that the ex-Soviet revolutions were “just the beginnings.” “Across the Caucasus and Central Asia, hope is stirring at the prospect of change -- and change will come,” he said.
Markarian suggested that Bush “probably” referred to Armenia as well. “We just don’t have to allow a political or economic situation which would lead somebody outside [Armenia] to do a revolution here as well. If there is a need for revolution we ourselves will do it and won’t wait for others to do it.”
“I still don’t see a need for revolution,” Markarian added.