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Armenian Ruling Parties ‘Close’ To New Coalition Accord


Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and Gagik Tsarukian attend a congress of the Prosperous Armenia Party, 12Feb2011.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and Gagik Tsarukian attend a congress of the Prosperous Armenia Party, 12Feb2011.

Armenia’s two main governing parties have agreed in principle to form a new coalition government after winning the overwhelming majority of seats in the new parliament, one of their senior figures said on Monday.

Hmayak Hovannisian, a veteran politician linked with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), claimed that the BHK and President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) now only need to work out details of their new power-sharing accord. “Right now we are talking about clarifying terms,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

“Prosperous Armenia certainly wants to get the post of prime minister and thus have the Republican Party indirectly recognize that the official election results do not reflect the real picture of popular support for political forces,” Hovannisian said. Should the HHK finally reject that demand the party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian could be offered more ministerial posts in Sarkisian’s government, he added.

Galust Sahakian, an HHK deputy chairman, dismissed Hovannisian’s claims as a “personal opinion” later in the day. “There is no information to that effect as yet,” he said of the framework agreement allegedly reached by the two parties.

Sahakian also claimed that their leaders have so far not even discussed the distribution of key posts in the new government. “You need to determine a strategy first and only then agree on instruments,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The coalition strategy has not been agreed upon yet.”

The BHK has so far been represented in the government by four ministers and about a dozen deputy ministers and regional governors. It made no secret of its desire to at least increase its presence in the executive branch in the run-up to the May 6 parliamentary elections.

Tsarukian’s party positioned itself as an alternative to the Republicans throughout the parliamentary race. Some of its top candidates strongly criticized the government.

Sarkisian and Tsarukian met on Thursday to discuss the future of their political cooperation. The Armenian president indicated the following day that they have reached no final agreements yet. He did not elaborate.

The HHK’s Sahakian suggested that the situation will clear up in the coming days. “This week should clarify what manifestations political forces will have in the new parliament,” he said.

The BHK openly challenged the official vote results that gave a landslide victory to Sarkisian’s HHK. In a May 11 statement, an election-monitoring structure set up by it together with two leading opposition groups said the new National Assembly “does not reflect the real picture of popular support for political forces.”

In Hovannisian’s words, the BHK is now trying to “dissociate itself” from that statement made by the Inter-Party Center for Public Oversight of the Elections. “The best way to do that is to put those BHK figures who have taken part in the work of the center beyond the team work at this juncture,” he said.

The most prominent of those figures are Hovannisian himself and former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, whose name was second on the BHK’s list of election candidates. Oskanian has already voiced strong opposition to the BHK’s continued presence in the government.

Hovannisian likewise implied that he is against striking a new power-sharing deal with President Sarkisian. He also did not rule out the possibility of giving up his parliament seat if such a deal is signed.

The Republicans will control at least 69 seats in the 131-member parliament, enough to push through any bill and ward off opposition challenges against the government. The BHK will hold 37 seats.

Hovannisian suggested that Sarkisian needs to continue to have Tsarukian on board in order to boost his chances of winning a second term in office in a presidential election due in February 2013. “The Republican Party itself is probably not sure that the official election results reflect public mood,” said Hovannisian. “In that case, an inferiority complex stemming from that sense is forcing the HHK to go for such cooperation. Besides, the HHK is conscious that the presidential elections cannot be easy given the existing public discontent with the results of the parliamentary elections.”

HHK representatives have not denied that Tsarukian will have to voice explicit support for Sarkisian’s reelection plans if he is to retain his government positions. The tycoon has been reluctant to do that so far.
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