By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s majority party has picked a new leader of its parliamentary faction to fill in the vacancy that has existed for nearly two months.
At an extended board meeting late on Monday the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) elected its deputy chairman Galust Sahakian as the new head of the faction after his candidacy was nominated and backed by the party’s leader, President Serzh Sarkisian.
Party spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov, who himself had been tipped as the party’s possible nominee for the post, told RFE/RL late on Monday that the HHK board had unanimously voted for Sahakian.
For four years Sahakian led the HHK faction in the parliament of the previous convocation. After the 2007 legislative elections, another senior Republican Karen Karapetian was chosen as the new faction leader. In September, Karapetian was appointed chief of presidential staff to leave the post vacant.
Talking to RFE/RL on Tuesday Sahakian downplayed the differences that observers said had existed within the party regarding who should be the next head of its parliamentary faction.
“Any member of the faction could become the head of the faction. However, discussions, including informal ones within narrow or broader circles of the party, had already paved the way for excluding the nomination of other candidates,” Sahakian said.
The Monday meeting of the party’s governing board presided by President Sarkisian also reportedly discussed issues connected with the current negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sahakian denied, however, that the meeting also discussed the issue of returning territories currently controlled by Karabakh Armenian armed forces as a concession to Azerbaijan in the ongoing settlement process.
“We had no such discussions during out meeting,” the senior HHK member said. “You won’t find any Armenian who would think these lands can be ceded. We have no intention to yield anything. I think Serzh Sarkisian is the first person to oppose any concessions.”