By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s influential Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian dismissed on Friday persisting speculation about his intention to form his own political party and contest next year’s parliamentary election.
“I am not a partisan politician,” he told RFE/RL. “The law bans the prosecutor-general from engaging in political activities.”
Hovsepian made it clear that his Nig-Aparan non-governmental organization, which unites prominent natives of a mountainous district in central Armenia, will not be transformed into a political party despite numerous newspaper reports to the contrary. “Nig-Aparan will remain a public and benevolent organization,” he said.
Despite its official apolitical status, Nig-Aparan is widely regarded as Hovsepian’s support base that cuts across the party lines, comprising even some opposition politicians. This perception was reinforced last year that saw high-profile events staged by the group, notably a mass circle dance around Armenia’s highest mountain. The entire state apparatus was mobilized to assist in organizing the extraordinary event in May 2005, highlighting the extent of Hovsepian’s political clout.
The chief prosecutor has since been described by observers as one of President Robert Kocharian’s potential successors. Some of them even consider him a rival of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Hovsepian has been linked most recently with the People’s Deputy group of 16 pro-Kocharian members of Armenia’s parliament who are not affiliated with any party. The leader of the group, Karen Karapetian, admitted that it is considering transforming itself into a party but denied that the People’s Deputy is now sponsored by Hovsepian. “The People’s Deputy has always sponsored itself,” Karapetian told RFE/RL.
“I personally don’t find it extremely important to form a new party,” he said. “There are many parties and you can look at their programs to see if they reflect your views and join one of them.”
The People’s Deputy will be a major player in the 2007 election not least because of controlling one out of nine seats in Armenia’s election commissions. It may therefore be courted by two newly formed pro-establishment parties that have far-reaching political ambitions but are not represented in the bodies tasked with administering Armenian elections. Those parties are led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian and the chief of Kocharian’s staff, Artashes Tumanian.