By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Artashes Tumanian, the chief of President Robert Kocharian’s staff, staked a claim to greater political influence on Monday, saying that his newly created party will seek to be represented in Armenia’s next government alongside other pro-establishment groups.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Tumanian admitted that the party called Nor Yerkir (New Country) hopes to make a strong showing in next year’s parliamentary election for that purpose.
“It would be strange to aspire to having a parliament faction and not to seek participation in the formation of the next government,” he said. “Of course, we would like to be in the next parliament and to participate in the formation of the next government.”
The party was officially unveiled on Friday with the publication of its program and ideological platform in three major Armenian newspapers. One of its key declared aims to make sure that Armenia joins the European Union by 2015. New Yerkir thus became the latest addition to a long list of big and small parties supporting Kocharian.
Tumanian said he set it up because he believes that the other pro-presidential forces do not enjoy sufficient public support. “Opinion polls show that the existing political spectrum does not enjoy full [popular] sympathy. So there is room for new entrants,” he said.
Tumanian has long cooperated with one of the parties represented in Kocharian’s cabinet, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), twice contesting parliamentary elections on the Dashnaktsutyun ticket. He insisted on Monday that he still thinks highly of the influential nationalist party. “I find my relations with them very positive,” he said. “They are as friendly as they were a few years ago … I think our relations will remain good and perhaps there will be opportunities for cooperation.”
Tumanian did not rule out the possibility of teaming up with Dashnaktsutyun and other forces before or after the 2007 election. “There could be different formats of cooperation,” he said without going into details.
Dashnaktsutyun and its two coalition partners seem uneasy about the emergence of new pro-Kocharian parties. They are particularly worried about another new party formed by Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s wealthiest businessmen who is seeking to play a key role in next year’s vote. Some coalition leaders have publicly complained about what they see as a growing role of money in Armenian politics.
Tumanian’s financial resources are hardly comparable to Tsarukian’s. Nor is he likely to lure political heavyweights or prominent public figures into his party. Still, he insisted that his little-known associates can quickly make a name for themselves before the election. “It is not impossible to turn an intellectual into a prominent political figure in one, two or six months by using well-known PR techniques,” he said.
Tumanian refused to be drawn on the number of parliament seats Nor Yerkir expects to win next year. “The more, the better,” he said.