Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s former longtime foreign minister, announced on Tuesday his decision to return to the political arena by joining the country’s second most important governing party three months before crucial parliamentary elections.
In a written statement, Oskanian said he has formally applied for membership in the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian, a millionaire businessman believed to be close to former President Robert Kocharian.
“I make this decision convinced that the Prosperous Armenia Party, together with other political parties, is able to, through political competition, secure free and fair elections, and thus, a new National Assembly with a new configuration of political forces,” he said.
“As Chairman of the Board of the Civilitas Foundation, I had, on various occasions, expressed my views on events and developments in Armenia. Today, I believe it is time to become more actively involved in our political processes,” he added.
Oskanian already signaled his desire to run for parliament on the BHK ticket in a statement issued on January 30. It followed months of reported tensions between Tsarukian and President Serzh Sarkisian. Commentators have linked them with Kocharian’s alleged desire to return to power. They have speculated that Kocharian might rely not only on the BHK but also former government figures such as Oskanian, who served as foreign minister throughout his 1998-2008 presidency.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK figure, confirmed that the party has received a membership application from Oskanian. “The party chairman, Gagik Tsarukian, is not in the country right now,” she said. “He will return to the country tomorrow or the day after and Mr. Oskanian’s application will naturally be discussed in accordance with all procedures.”
“Mr. Tsarukian has always said that Prosperous Armenia’s doors are open to all those figures who are ready to work with us for the sake of building a better and more prosperous Armenia, who share our programs and aims …In his recent interviews Mr. Oskanian said that Prosperous Armenia’s goals are dear to his heart and he wants to go down the same path with us,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zohrabian agreed that Oskanian’s involvement with the BHK would give it a boost ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for May. She also denied that the membership request is connected with a possible Kocharian comeback.
“I absolutely don’t see a connection here with the second president of the republic because Mr. Oskanian also worked with the first president [Levon Ter-Petrosian] and even the current president when the latter was prime minister [in 2007-2008,]” Zohrabian said.
In his January 30 statement, Oskanian spoke of “politically motivated pressures” exerted on Tsarukian’s party and, in a clear reference to Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), “the utilization of administrative resources this early in the pre-electoral period.”
Sarkisian, Tsarukian and Artur Baghdasarian, the leader of a third party represented in the Armenian government, discussed the upcoming elections at a meeting on Monday. They reportedly pledged not to undermine each other’s parties during the parliamentary race.