By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a junior partner in the governing coalition, on Thursday officially endorsed Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s bid to become Armenia’s next president.
The decision was announced at a special meeting of the BHK’s governing board chaired by the party leader, businessman Gagik Tsarukian, and attended by Sarkisian. With the BHK widely seen as President Robert Kocharian’s power base, it came as a further indication that the outgoing head of state approves of Sarkisian’s presidential ambitions.
Tsarukian already indicated earlier this year that his party, which has the second largest faction in parliament, will endorse Sarkisian in accordance with a power-sharing agreement signed with the latter’s Republican Party (HHK) following the May parliamentary elections. One of the influential tycoon’s close associates, Minister for Urban Development Vartan Vartanian, was designated as Sarkisian’s deputy campaign manager last month.
Unlike the BHK, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the other pro-Kocharian party represented in the government, has declined to throw its weight behind the prime minister and nominated its own presidential candidate instead.
“The Prosperous Armenia Party will support Serzh Sarkisian’s candidature and entirely work for his victory,” Tsarukian declared on Thursday. “Not only because we signed the [power-sharing] document but because recent political analyses and the spirit of our political cooperation allow us to say that out joint candidate can solve all problems facing Armenia.”
“We must jointly strive for [Sarkisian’s] victory,” he told loyalists.
Other BHK figures also heaped praise on Sarkisian in their speeches at the gathering. “He is the most experienced and worthy of the candidates who also enjoys broad international recognition,” one of them, Artsrun Grigorian, said.
“Obtaining the backing of such a force in the presidential elections is an honor for any politician,” Sarkisian said in his acceptance speech. He referred to himself as the most popular of the presidential candidates and said the Armenian authorities will ensure that the February 19 meets democratic standards.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Sarkisian denied opposition allegations that he fears being rejected by voters. “Neither the authorities nor myself are afraid of the people,” he said. “If I was afraid, I would not meet the people every Saturday and Sunday.”
“What I am afraid of is that I might not live up to the people’s trust. Others are not afraid of that because the people do not trust them,” he added.
(Photolur photo: Sarkisian speaks at the BHK meeting.)