Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has spearheaded work on the electoral manifesto of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that will be unveiled soon, a senior HHK figure revealed on Wednesday.
“Right now we are simply drawing up our campaign platform through the prime minister,” Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Tigran Sarkisian, as a member of the [HHK] Executive Body, has been tasked with that issue.”
Sahakian said this is the main reason why Sarkisian has been busy touring various Armenian regions, meeting with HHK activists and handing membership cards to new party recruits in recent weeks. He insisted that these activities do not amount to an unofficial start of the HHK campaign for the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Campaigning for the polls is to officially get underway on April 8. Critics say Sarkisian is not only campaigning prematurely but also using government resources to promote the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Sahakian dismissed these claims. He said the prime minister visits HHK chapters across the country only on weekends or after work on weekdays.
The visits heavily covered by government-controlled broadcasters contrast with a low profile kept by Hovik Abrahamian, the HHK’s election campaign manager who served as parliament speaker until November. Relations between the two men were reportedly frosty when Abrahamian headed the National Assembly and allegedly set his sights on the post of prime minister. According to some media reports, they are now competing for the second place on the HHK’s list of election candidates.
Sahakian denied that Abrahamian is increasingly isolated and mistrusted by President Sarkisian. He said the ex-speaker simply concentrates on “logistical issues” that are usually not in the media spotlight.
Tigran Sarkisian’s most recent meeting with the party faithful took place in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri on Tuesday evening. Scores of local public-sector employees also attended the meeting under the watchful eyes of Gyumri’s HHK-affiliated Mayor Vartan Ghukasian and Shirak Province Governor Ashot Gizirian.
Addressing the audience, Sarkisian claimed that the current Armenian leadership has managed to overcome the fallout from Armenia’s 2008 post-election crisis and create “an atmosphere of cooperation and tolerance” in the country.
“We had a divided society, political tension and we set about building bridges with the opposition [in April 2008,” the premier said. “Today we can conclude that under the leadership of the president of the republic we have succeeded in meeting this very important challenge.”
Armen Badalian, a political strategist sympathetic to the opposition, scoffed at those claims. Badalian argued that the authorities have so far failed to hold elections widely recognized as democratic or to loosen their grip on broadcast media. He said they have also refused to enact major amendments to the Electoral Code proposed by the opposition.
“No bridges have been built with the [opposition] Armenian National Congress,” Badalian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They have not even attempted to do that.”
But Tevan Poghosian, director of the Yerevan-based International Center for Human Development, disagreed, saying that the government has indeed made substantial progress in healing the 2008 wounds. “Does this mean all problems have been solved? Of course not,” said Poghosian. “We still have a long way to go in creating a Western-style [political] culture.”