By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Artashes Tumanian, the chief of President Robert Kocharian’s staff, was unexpectedly relieved of his duties on Friday two weeks after unveiling his new political party which he hoped will be represented in Armenia’s next government.
A one-sentence statement by the presidential office said Tumanian was dismissed “in accordance with his request” but did not give any details. Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, declined a comment, repeating only the official explanation.
Tumanian, 55, could not be immediately reached for comment. He is understood to have also resigned as the co-chairman of the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.
It is not clear if Kocharian’s decree is connected with Tumanian’s desire to play a greater role in Armenian politics that manifested itself through the creation of his party called Nor Yerkir (New Country). In an interview with RFE/RL last week, he said Nor Yerkir will seek to make a strong showing in next year’s parliamentary election and “participate in the formation of the next government.”
Tumanian also said Kocharian had been informed of his political plans beforehand and left no indication that he plans to resign from the post which he has held for nearly six years.
Ever since becoming the deputy speaker of Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament in 1991, Tumanian has developed the reputation of a moderate and reserved politician with an aversion to radical actions. Unlike other Kocharian allies, he avoided strong verbal attacks on the Armenian opposition even when it sought to bring down the ruling regime.
Speaking to RFE/RL on Thursday, the leader of Armenia’s most radical opposition party, Aram Sarkisian, revealed that he continues to maintain “certain personal contacts” with Tumanian and has read the founding manifesto of the latter’s party. Asked whether he is ready to cooperate with Nor Yerkir, Sarkisian replied, “Time will tell.”
Meanwhile, Kocharian did not immediately name his new chief of staff. A source in his administration said Tumanian’s successor will be chosen from a “wide pool” of individuals but refused to name any of them.