By Ruzanna Stepanian
After months of speculation about his political future, Justice Minister David Harutiunian announced on Friday his intention to run for parliament as a candidate of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
A short statement by the Justice Ministry said he has decided to stand in the May 12 parliamentary elections on the HHK ticket. It gave no details, saying only that Harutiunian, 43, formally applied for membership in the HHK on Thursday.
A spokesman for the HHK, Eduard Sharmazanov, initially denied but later confirmed receipt of such an application.
It remained unclear, however, whether Harutiunian’s plans have been approved by or agreed with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and other party leaders. According to Sharmazanov, those plans were not discussed at the last meeting of the HHK’s governing board that took place on Wednesday. He stressed that the HHK has not yet drawn up its electoral slate.
Another prominent Republican, parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, also declined to shed more light on the development, saying only that the HHK board will consider Harutiunian’s application. “Every citizen, including the justice minister, is equal and has the right to apply for HHK membership,” Torosian told RFE/RL.
Another senior HHK lawmaker, Samvel Nikoyan, chided the minister for effectively presenting his inclusion on the party slate as a forgone conclusion. “Everyone, including [Harutiunian,] had better be patient and wait till the end of the month, rather than make statements in advance,” he said. “These are the rules of the game.”
Harutiunian, who is widely seen as a protégé of President Robert Kocharian, revealed last year plans to become more actively involved in Armenia’s political life and join the 2007 electoral race for that purpose. Over the past few months he has been linked with several pro-Kocharian parties, notably businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia. Tsarukian has allegedly refused to admit Harutiunian and other “discredited” government officials, fearing that they would lose his rapidly growing party many votes.
Despite his relatively young age, Harutiunian is one of the longest serving members of the Kocharian administration. He is believed to have enjoyed considerable influence on Armenia’s courts, notorious for their lack of independence, throughout his almost nine-year tenure.