Former President Robert Kocharian has not been invited to this week’s pre-election congress of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) despite being widely associated with the junior partner in the country’s governing coalition.
The BHK will hold the congress on Saturday to discuss preparations for the May 6 parliamentary elections which its leader Gagik Tsarukian hopes will enable him to increase his and his party’s political clout. Citing Tsarukian’s reportedly close ties with Kocharian, some analysts suggest that a strong BHK showing could also pave the way for the ex-president return to active politics.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK figure, insisted on Tuesday that Tsarukian and his political team did not even consider inviting Kocharian to the congress because that issue is an “artificial” one.
“Prosperous Armenia found it expedient to invite only representatives of political forces represented in the parliament,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). She said President Serzh Sarkisian, who leads the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), is among them.
Relations between the two coalition partners are thought to have been tense in recent months because of Tsarukian’s apparent reluctance to pledge support for Sarkisian’s reelection in 2013.
Zohrabian insisted that the BHK is primed for genuine “competition” with the HHK in the unfolding parliamentary race. “All political forces bidding to participate in the upcoming elections are our rivals,” she said. “We are prepared for a fair competition with them.”
Talk of that competition intensified last month when the BHK was joined by former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, a key member of the Kocharian administration who has been critical of Sarkisian’s policies. Tsarukian also enlisted the support of influential businessman Gurgen Arsenian and his United Labor Party (MAK). Arsenian and several other MAK members are expected to run for parliament on the BHK ticket.
Zohrabian clarified that the BHK congress will not draw up or even discuss the party’s list of candidates for the elections. The BHK’s Political Council will approve the list shortly after the gathering, she said.