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Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian has not ruled out the possibility of his return to big politics, but has markedly refused to link any such move with outside developments.

The Yerevan-based Mediamax news agency on Friday published an exclusive interview with the ex-leader, in which he comments on the more frequent talk about his plans to make a political comeback in time for the country’s next parliamentary or presidential elections.

Speculation about Kocharian’s return to active politics intensified last weekend in the wake of the announcement made in Russia that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev would exchange their offices after next year’s presidential election in which Putin’s victory appears to be almost a foregone conclusion for many.

In Armenia where Russia’s influence remains particularly strong due to the South Caucasus nation’s deep political, economic and military ties with Moscow, the kind of development in the Kremlin could not but trigger a storm in the form of predictions of similar scenarios, with ex-president Kocharian said to be contemplating a bid to supplant incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian in the next presidential vote slated for 2013 or become Armenia’s next prime minister after regaining his political foothold through next May’s parliamentary polls.

“I am amazed that my possible return is linked to political processes in Russia… I am sure political processes should ripen here in Armenia, and not be directly projected from outside,” commented Kocharian, who served as Armenia’s president for two successive terms in 1998-2008 before being replaced by then Prime Minister Sarkisian, widely believed to be his handpicked successor.

The ex-president listed only three major factors that he said might force him to return to active politics: “the absence of a tangible and stable improvement of the situation in country’s economy and people’s welfare, and, consequently, the growth of hopeless moods and migration; the demand for my return to big politics by various layers of the society; and my inner belief that I can radically improve the situation.”

“The ways of return to active politics may vary given these three factors. Other circumstances only add a political resource but are not fundamental,” said Kocharian.

Analysts have also speculated that the possible pressure from Kocharian as a political rival may force Sarkisian and his current political opponent Levon Ter-Petrosian, who currently seem to be on the opposite sides of the political fence, to start moving closer towards each other in the run-up to the polls.

Negotiating teams representing the governing coalition led by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) held several rounds of formal talks in July and August around the political future of the country before the opposition alliance suspended its participation over the arrest of a group of its young activists.

At the latest HAK rally in Yerevan on Friday, Ter-Petrosian offered a “reasonable” compromise to Armenia’s current political leadership, signaling his readiness to reconsider his demands for holding snap presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year. At the same time, the opposition leader urged his supporters to turn out in much larger numbers at the next rally that was scheduled for this Friday to exert stronger pressure on the government and possible get broader concessions.

Meanwhile, HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov took Kocharian’s desire to return to active politics in its stride, but said the current ruling party was determined to support Sarkisian’s policies and reelection bid.

“It is up to him [Kocharian] and his political team to decide [whether he returns to politics or not]. It does not change any plans of the HKK, which, like before, has and will have a clear reform plan and is determined to carry out reforms under the leadership of its president, Serzh Sarkisian,” Sharmazanov commented in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Meanwhile, David Shahnazarian, a senior representative of the HAK, which holds Kocharian responsible for deadly post-election clashes in March 2008, made more poignant comments regarding the ex-president’s statements.

“Broad sections of the Armenian public want to see Kocharian as a defendant in court. These are only attempts by him to avoid a defendant’s status in the future, nothing more,” Shahnazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
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