By Astghik Bedevian
Vazgen Manukian, a veteran Armenian politician, expressed readiness on Monday to closely cooperate with the newly elected President Serzh Sarkisian but insisted that he has not been offered any government positions in return.
“I am in opposition but will do everything to help this government become successful,” he said. “I would like to see correct appointments in this government. I will definitely support them on issues of national security or reforms acceptable to us.”
Manukian was one of several prominent opposition leaders who refused to endorse former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s bid to return to power and contested the February 19 presidential election on their own. Throughout the election campaign he harshly criticized Ter-Petrosian, repeatedly recalling the latter’s hotly disputed victory in a presidential election held in 1996. According to the Central Election Commission, Manukian got just over 1 percent of the vote in the last presidential ballot, a far cry from his strong showing in 1996.
Unlike Ter-Petrosian, Manukian essentially recognized the official outcome of the 2008 election and responded positively to Sarkisian’s offers to share power with opposition groups not questioning his legitimacy. That prompted speculation that the leader of the National Democratic Union (AZhM), a once influential opposition party, will be offered a senior government position.
Manukian insisted, however, that he has not received such offers. He revealed that he met Sarkisian at his own initiative recently
“I have a little optimism,” Manukian told a news conference. “I have seen Levon Ter-Petrosian’s presidency, he was a very bad president. But I haven’t seen Serzh Sarkisian’s presidency.” He cited the example of Nikita Khrushchev, the late Soviet leader who put an end to deadly government purges and eased other repressions after taking over from Josef Stalin in 1953.
The AZhM leader, who had served as Armenia’s first post-Communist prime minister from 1990-1991, approved of Sarkisian’s first ministerial appointments and defended the authorities’ decision to cordon off much of downtown Yerevan during the new president’s April 9 inauguration. He argued that failure to take such unprecedented security measures would have enabled a large number of Ter-Petrosian supporters to disrupt the ceremony and re-ignite tensions in the country.
“I’m not justifying that,” said Manukian. “But in a tense atmosphere, you can at least understand why that was done.”