Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian openly backed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, saying that his victory in Russia’s upcoming presidential election would be good for Armenia.
“That also stems from Armenia’s interests,” he told journalists in Yerevan. “We are interested in seeing stability and steady development in Russia. The force which is now ensuring steady development in Russia is Putin and the [United Russia] party led by him.”
Despite growing street protests against his more than decade-long rule, Putin is expected to formally regain the Russian presidency as a result of the election scheduled for March 4.
He has been endorsed by some prominent members of Russia’s large Armenian community. Three of them, including a Russian-Armenian businessman close to President Serzh Sarkisian, reportedly reaffirmed that backing on Monday at a meeting with Stanislav Govorukhin, Putin’s nominal election campaign chief.
The powerful Russian premier has repeatedly met with Tigran Sarkisian, most recently in Saint Petersburg last October, for talks mainly focusing on economic issues. Serzh Sarkisian likewise met Putin when he visited Moscow later in October.
Echoing statements by other pro-government politicians, Tigran Sarkisian also confirmed on Wednesday that the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) led by the president expects to win parliamentary elections due in May. “That confidence comes from the people,” he claimed. “You yourself monitor various opinion polls on the approval ratings of one or another party.”
“We are heading for the elections with an open face because the Republican Party has been honest during these years, because we have always spoken about our problems and haven’t concealed anything from our people,” he added.
Armenian opposition leaders portray such statements as further proof that the HHK plans to rig the elections. The Republicans already faced fraud allegations when they won the previous legislative vote in 2007. However, Tigran Sarkisian declared in December that the 2012 polls will be the most democratic in the country’s history.
The prime minister also hit out at the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, for blocking the passage of a major government bill on Monday. He hinted that the government will reintroduce it to the National Assembly soon.
The bill would ban Armenian businesses and individual entrepreneurs from carrying out cash transactions worth more than 3 million drams ($7,770). The government says the ban would complicate tax evasion. BHK deputies disagree, saying that it would hurt small businesses and benefit only commercial banks.
Sarkisian dismissed the BHK objections as politically motivated. “No opinion has been expressed in the National Assembly to the effect that one or another article of that bill should be revised,” he said. “That means the issue was moved to the political plane and that means we will discuss it on the political plane.”