Amid what appears to be mounting pressure from Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Tsarukian also did not rule out his eventual resignation from the country’s second most important governing party.
A leading HHK member told RFE/RL’s Armenian service last week that the presidential party has offered the BHK and Orinats Yerkir, the third party represented in the government, to sign a new agreement that would commit them to fielding a single candidate in the next presidential election due in 2013. Sarkisian is widely expected to run for reelection.
Orinats Yerkir representatives confirmed and backed the HHK initiative. They said the Armenian president discussed it with Tsarukian and other coalition leaders at a meeting on February 7.
Tsarukian made no mention of the matter in a speech at a BHK congress on Saturday that was attended by Sarkisian. He said the BHK remains committed to a power-sharing deal that was signed by the three parties following the last presidential ballot held in 2008.
“The political coalition has demonstrated its efficacy,” he said. “Of course, during our joint work there have been cases where we and our coalition partners had different approaches to certain issues. But that is natural and fits into the bounds of common sense.”
Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and Gagik Tsarukian attend a congress of the Prosperous Armenia Party, 12Feb2011.
Tsarukian, who is also wealthy businessman, went on to stress that the 2013 ballot and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2012 should be free and fair. He argued that past Armenian elections marred by fraud allegations and unrest have had “very painful” consequences for the country.
“Elections must not disrupt the political calm, must not split the Armenian society. Political forces in our country must fight in accordance with solely democratic rules of the game,” he said.
“We are confident that the political leadership of the Republic of Armenia has sufficient political will to conduct the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in accordance with international standards,” added the tycoon.
Former President Robert Kocharian, who is still regarded by local observers as Tsarukian’s political patron, likewise stressed the importance of the proper conduct of the next polls in a rare public statement last week. He also effectively backed Tsarukian in a dispute with the HHK.
In his speech, Tsarukian hinted that he might eventually leave the political arena. “If Mr. Tsarukian feels at some point that he can’t live up to the trust and confidence of the people and his team, he will convene an emergency congress [of the BHK] and resign as party chairman with dignity,” he said. “And whoever our people and my party comrades trust and want will lead [the party.]”
“When a person can lift up to 50 kilograms, putting him under [a burden of] 200 kilograms would be a waste of time,” the former arm-wrestler added vaguely. He avoided any contact with journalists afterwards.
Sarkisian did not address the BHK congress attended by over two thousand delegates. The president left the conference hall immediately after Tsarukian’s speech. The HHK refused to comment on the speech on Monday.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on the sidelines of the congress, a senior BHK member, Vartan Bostanjian, suggested that Tsarukian’s party will eventually endorse Sarkisian’s reelection bid. “Of course, we will support. I can’t think of a reason not to support,” he said.
Asked why the BHK will not do so now, Bostanjian argued that Sarkisian has still not officially announced his intention to seek a second term in office.