The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a key member of the governing coalition, avoided explicitly responding on Thursday to what looks like a government warning to continue to support President Serzh Sarkisian.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation) on Wednesday warned political forces against challenging the president’s Republican Party (HHK). He said they would “end up empty-handed” because the HHK intends to deepen its dominance in Armenian politics.
A spokesman for BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian commented ambiguously on that statement when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“One can react to the distinguished prime minister with the Biblical words, ‘For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen,’” said Khachik Galstian. He did not elaborate.
Tsarukian fuelled renewed talk of discord between the two governing parties earlier this month when he declined to reaffirm support for President Sarkisian’s plans to win a second term in office in 2013. He spoke just days after former President Robert Kocharian, with whom the BHK leader has long had a close rapport, dropped more hints about his possible return to active politics.
Senior representatives of the two opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament agreed that the prime minister’s warning was primarily addressed to the BHK.
“What [the prime minister] said was, ‘He who is not with us will have everything taken away from him; so behave yourself,’” said Anahit Bakhshian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.
“In my view, this applies not only to Prosperous Armenia but also to other people, both within the HHK and elsewhere, who might attempt to back Robert Kocharian,” Bakhshian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
According to Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the BHK’s exit from the ruling coalition is now becoming a real possibility. “I don’t rule out such a development because if that political force wants to retain its independence it cannot come to terms with such rules of the game,” he said.
Rustamian, whose party was allied with Kocharian in the past, would not speculate about chances of the ex-president’s political comeback. He predicted instead that Tigran Sarkisian’s comments will provoke “reaction” from political groups opposed to “reproduction” of the ruling regime.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Rustamian also accused the premier of seeking to “divide country into government loyalists and aliens.” “Yes, [Tigran Sarkisian] put it very accurately: those who are close to the presidential post wield everything in this country, control and benefit from state resources, while the others are left empty-handed,” he said.
“The prime minister acknowledged that 99 percent of his people are empty-handed,” added the Dashnaktsutyun leader. “I’m kind of surprised by his candor.”
Meanwhile, the Orinats Yerkir Party, the third and less influential coalition partner, said the prime minister’s warning was irrelevant to it. “Since the prime minister’s statement doesn’t apply to us I think that there is no need to comment on it,” said Heghine Bisharian, the party’s parliamentary leader.
Orinats Yerkir’s top leader, Artur Baghdasarian, has repeatedly stated that he will not run for president in 2013 and will support Serzh Sarkisian instead.