Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has become a member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), it was announced on Tuesday.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief party spokesman, said that Sarkisian applied for HHK membership “several days ago” and that the application was swiftly approved by the party’s top governing body headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.
“I don’t think that should come as a surprise because Tigran Sarkisian is a representative of President Sarkisian’s political team and the HHK’s council supported his appointment as prime minister,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL.
Tigran Sarkisian had had no party affiliation ever since he quit the National Democratic Union (AZhM), a once influential opposition group, in the early 1990s. He had no direct involvement in political processes during his time as governor of the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) from 1998-2008. Serzh Sarkisian (no relation) named him prime minister shortly after taking office in April 2008.
The Armenian premier has yet to comment on his decision to join a party that has a clear majority in parliament and controls most of the country’s central and local government bodies. Representatives of the main Armenian opposition forces offered on Tuesday differing interpretations of the move.
Ara Nranian, a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, suggested that Sarkisian is seeking to strengthen his positions and “prolong the existence of his government.” He said a lack of “political support base” has been a major handicap for the prime minister.
Armen Martirosian, the chairman of the Zharangutyun (Heritage), gave a largely positive assessment. “I think it’s quite logical for the prime minister to be a representative of a certain political force because he occupies one of the most important political posts in the state,” he told RFE/RL.
But Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) was far more scathing. “I suppose that’s a stage through which everyone in that criminal-oligarchic clan must go,” he said. “So we congratulate Tigran Sarkisian on joining the mafia.”