Mikael Minasian, President Serzh Sarkisian’s influential son-in-law and reputedly closest confidante, said he will take a leading role in the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) after being unexpectedly dismissed as deputy chief of the presidential staff late on Thursday.
Sarkisian’s office said Minasian was relieved of his duties at his own request but gave no further details.
The move came on the heels of a series of high-level personnel changes within Armenia’s political leadership, including the resignation of parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian. They are widely seen as being part of Sarkisian’s efforts to strengthen his hold on power ahead of parliamentary elections due in May 2012.
Abrahamian is expected to formally take over as the HHK’s election campaign manager later this month.
“I am going to help Hovik Abrahamian properly prepare the forthcoming elections and think that is a priority today,” Minasian told News.am immediately after the announcement of the presidential decree.
Abrahamian announced his decision to step down as speaker on Wednesday amid mounting speculation that Sarkisian is keen to ward off a potential challenge to his rule from his predecessor Robert Kocharian. The outgoing speaker is thought to have close ties with Gagik Tsarukian, a Kocharian-linked businessman leading Armenia’s second most important governing party.
Both Abrahamian and other senior HHK figures have denied any connection between the resignation and Kocharian’s possible return to the political arena.
Minasian claimed that the HHK is already starting to prepare for the parliamentary polls because Sarkisian is intent on holding “the best elections” in terms of their freedom and fairness. “We are going to not only ensure the presidential party’s victory in the forthcoming elections but also foster the kind of elections from which Armenia will emerge stronger and confidently looking to the future,” he said.
“All necessary conditions for that are now in place. I think that these elections will mark a qualitative revolution for our country and each of us,” added Minasian.
Sarkisian’s and his party’s victories in the last national elections were marred by opposition allegations of vote rigging. Accordingly, Armenia’s leading opposition forces dismiss their pledges to ensure that the next polls are more democratic.
Minasian also refused to speculate on whether more sackings or resignations should be expected in the coming days. “Only one person knows the answer to such questions: the president of the republic,” he said.