By Astghik Bedevian
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian, a junior partner in the governing coalition, will be supporting Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian in next year’s presidential elections, a parliamentarian representing it said on Friday.
Naira Zohrabian argued that nomination of a joint presidential candidate was one of the conditions of the power-sharing deal signed by the BHK and Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) in the wake of the May parliamentary elections.
“There is no reason to think that the coalition memorandum between Prosperous Armenia and the Republicans can be annulled or revised and that Prosperous Armenia will not support the Republican candidate,” Zohrabian told reporters. “I don’t think there are or there will be such prerequisites.”
The BHK, which has the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, is widely regarded as President Robert Kocharian’s number one power base. Kocharian confirmed through a spokesman last month that he fully backs Sarkisian’s plans to succeed him at the country’s helm. Whether the two longtime associates agree on what Kocharian should do after completing his second and final term in office next spring is not clear, though.
Unlike the BHK, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the HHK’s second coalition partner, refused to endorse Sarkisian for the presidency. Dashnaktsutyun is due to nominate its own presidential candidate next month. It is expected that Sarkisian will instead be endorsed by other, smaller parties that are loyal to Kocharian and not represented in the National Assembly.
The Armenian opposition camp is far more divided, with several opposition politicians having already announced their decision to run for president. Those include Artur Baghdasarian, the former parliament speaker and leader of the Orinats Yerkir Party.
A senior member of the other opposition parliamentary party, Zharangutyun, indicated on Friday that its popular leader Raffi Hovannisian also would like to have a shot at the presidency. “The issue of participating in the presidential candidate with its own candidates is not closed for Zharangutyun,” Vartan Khachatrian said, adding that the party will ascertain its plans at a conference scheduled for early November.
Hovannisian was barred from contesting the last presidential election on the grounds that he has not been an Armenian citizen for the previous ten years, something which is required by the country’s constitution. The U.S.-born politician, who received an Armenian passport in 2002, considers that decision illegal, saying that his citizenship applications had for years been illegally ignored by the authorities.