With only three days to go before Armenia’s crucial parliamentary elections, former President Robert Kocharian on Thursday again did not rule his return to the political arena and criticized his successor Serzh Sarkisian’s economic track record.
In his latest interview with the Mediamax news agency, Kocharian also downplayed his reputed ties with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian, while predicting that it will make a strong showing in Sunday’s vote.
“My relationship with the government is not unequivocal,” he said. “I sincerely want it to succeed but am unhappy with the results of its activities, especially the economic ones. Incidentally, I have directly said this to the president as well.”
Kocharian went on to accuse the Sarkisian government of misleading Armenians about the economic situation in the country which he said has deteriorated since he completed his ten-year rule in 2008. “People don’t get it when [the authorities] are trying to convince them in that their life has improved. Ultimately, that leads to cynicism and widespread public distrust,” he said, pointing to increased labor migration from Armenia.
Asked about the possibility of his political comeback, he said, “In Armenia, there are now great public expectations of change, and that means the extent of public indifference is not irreversible, which is a highly positive fact. The question that interests me is: to what extent do the people associate those changes with my return to active politics? I have no complete answer yet.”
Kocharian gave similar indications of his desire to regain a key role in the country’s political life in his previous Mediamax interview published last September. Just days after that interview Tsarukian pointedly declined to reaffirm support for Sarkisian’s candidacy in the next presidential election due in 2013.
Relations between the BHK and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) seem to have worsened since then. Tsarukian’s party, which is part of the HHK-led ruling coalition, now makes no secret of its intention to at least win a greater presence in government as a result of the parliamentary elections.
The BHK has for year been linked with Kocharian owing to its wealthy leader’s long-running and close rapport with the ex-president. Hence, persistent media speculation that it would serve as the main platform for a possible Kocharian comeback. The speculation only intensified when former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, a key member of the Kocharian administration, joined the BHK in March.
Kocharian insisted, however, that the BHK is only “one of the parties” with which he cooperated during his 1998-2008 presidency. “Had it been mine, the majority of ministers and regional governors would have probably ended up [in the BHK,] rather than the HHK, in the run-up to the 2007 parliamentary elections,” he argued.
“But on the whole, I am glad that the BHK is succeeding and registering a substantial rise in its popularity,” he stressed. “I think that it will have a serious influence on the size of the party’s representation in the next National Assembly,” he said.
A much stronger BHK presence in the parliament would have to come at the HHK’s expense. The presidential party has made clear, however, it is aiming to again win the absolute majority of parliament seats. Observers believe that a landslide victory in Sunday’s polls is critical for the success of Sarkisian’s reelection plans.
Kocharian denied on Thursday any involvement in the Armenian parliamentary race. “Generally speaking, I think it’s not a president’s job, neither a former nor a current one’s,” he said in an apparent dig at not only Sarkisian but Levon Ter-Petrosian, another former president leading the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Kocharian also seemed to scathingly allude to both men’s well-known passion for chess when he rejected parallels drawn between Armenian politics and the ancient game. “The game of chess is all about protecting the king’s ‘head’ at any cost,” he told Mediamax. “For the sake of that aim, you can even sacrifice half of the ‘kingdom.’”
“So we had better leave chess alone. Let it remain a mere intellectual game,” concluded the ex-president.