Former parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian has formally taken over as election campaign manager of President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Abrahamian announced his new role as he unexpectedly resigned as parliament speaker in November. He dismissed at the time media speculation that he was forced to quit because of being regarded as a potential backer of former President Robert Kocharian’s possible bid to return to power.
That speculation only intensified in the following days when Mikael Minasian, Sarkisian’s son-in-law and reputedly closest confidante, said that he will be “helping” Abrahamian manage the presidential party’s campaign for the May parliamentary elections. Some opposition politicians and media commentators claimed that Minasian will in fact be keeping an eye on the ex-speaker. HHK representatives denied this, however.
The HHK’s Executive Body headed by Sarkisian formalized Abrahamian’s appointment to the new position at a meeting held late on Thursday. The meeting came two days before the party’s pre-election congress.
According to Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK member, Sarkisian will deliver an extensive speech at the congress in which he will present his and his party’s track record in office and plans for the future. The president will also touch upon the upcoming parliamentary elections, Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday. He confirmed that the HHK’s list of election candidates will not be publicized during the congress.
HHK representatives have only said until now that the list will be topped by Sarkisian. They also make no secret of the party’s plans to retain control over the Armenian parliament as a result of the May 6 elections.
It also emerged on Friday, that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) is the only opposition group whose leaders have been invited to attend the HHK conference.
Stepan Safarian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, deplored this fact. “With such a decision they show what kind of political culture they prefer,” Safarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The more radical Armenian National Congress (HAK) seemed indifferent to the snub. “We don’t care who the HHK invites to its gatherings,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator.