Orinats Yerkir Party leader Artur Baghdasarian said on Tuesday that he will not contest Armenia’s next presidential election due in 2013, implying that he will instead help President Serzh Sarkisian win reelection.
Baghdasarian, who is also the secretary of the presidential National Security Council, made the announcement one day after Orinats Yerkir unexpectedly ceded two of its three ministerial portfolios to individuals that have had no formal connection with it until now.
“I will not take part in the presidential elections, but our team will participate in the parliamentary elections of 2012,” he told a news conference.
“Why? Because … we entered into an alliance of strategic cooperation with President Serzh Sarkisian and we will do everything to implement our programs and move forward together,” he said.
Baghdasarian referred to a power-sharing agreement which he and the leaders of two other parties signed with Sarkisian in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election. The former parliament speaker was one of the two main opposition candidates in the vote. His party has until now been represented in the Armenian government by three ministers.
Two of them, Emergency Situations Minister Mher Shahgeldian and Transport and Communication Minister Gurgen Sargsian, were on Monday formally relieved of their duties, ostensibly at the Orinats Yerkir leadership’s request. The latter said earlier in the day that it has asked Sarkisian to replace them by other government loyalists who joined the party on Saturday.
Some local commentators believe the ministerial changes were initiated by Sarkisian and reflect a decline in the influence of a party that once boasted the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament. Orinats Yerkir representatives deny this, however.
Baghdasarian claimed that the personnel changes were necessitated by “intra-party political reforms.” “And we want experienced people to deal with intra-party affairs,” he said.
Baghdasarian acknowledged that the selection of the two new ministers supposedly representing his party was agreed with Sarkisian. “I consider that a brilliant manifestation of teamwork,” he said.
Both cabinet members were presented to the ministry staffs by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian on Tuesday. “I have cooperated with both the Republican and Orinats Yerkir for many years,” Transport Minister Manuk Vartanian told RFE/RL afterwards. “There was an offer from Orinats Yerkir and I joined the party.”
Vartanian previously worked as an adviser to President Sarkisian and head of Armenia’s State Cadastre Committee. The other newly appointed minister, Armen Yeritsian, was a deputy chief of the national police until now.
“Artur Baghdasarian is an old friend of mine,” Yeritsian told RFE/RL. “There was an offer from my friend and I accepted it.”
The police general claimed to be familiar with Orinats Yerkir’s platform. But when asked to single out any of its provisions, he replied: “I can’t talk about that today … I will familiarize myself with the party’s platform in greater detail and will probably be able to answer your question a few months later.”