Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian stressed on Thursday the importance of his Prosperous Armenia Party’s (BHK) victory in the weekend municipal elections in Gyumri, saying that it could weaken President Serzh Sarkisian’s grip on power.
Oskanian downplayed the fact that Gyumri’s newly elected mayor, Samvel Balasanian, was endorsed by Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Sarkisian said last week that he personally told Balasanian to seek to run Armenia’s second largest city after the upcoming resignation of its longtime HHK-affiliated mayor, Vartan Ghukasian. This statement raised questions about Balasanian’s allegiance to the BHK. Some commentators speculated that the Gyumri-based businessman has now closer ties to the president.
Oskanian dismissed this speculation, saying that Balasanian would have won even without the HHK’s backing. He argued that the BHK and its individual candidates defeated the ruling party in all Gyumri constituencies during the May 6 parliamentary elections.
“Let’s look at the matter in the context of the results of the parliamentary elections,” Oskanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The party proved there that it has a lot of popular support and that whoever is backed by the party will get elected.”
“I think it was a tactical step on the part of the HHK,” he said. “They had no alternative as the BHK candidate was going to win anyway … Maybe they [the HHK] didn’t want to be seen as losing in the city.”
Oskanian also suggested that the Gyumri election may have heralded “the beginning of a separation of power” in Armenia. “I continue to believe that the main cause of our problems is [the HHK’s] political monopoly,” he said. “All other problems affecting our day-to-day life -- economic policies, corruption, injustice, abuses -- are consequences of that political monopoly.”
The BHK was part of the governing coalition until the May elections. It pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition government after questioning the legitimacy of the HHK’s landslide victory in the elections.
Relations between the two parties deteriorated in the months leading up to the vote amid BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s reluctance to pledge support for Sarkisian’s plans to win a second term in office in the February 2013 presidential election. Oskanian said that the BHK will finally announce next month whether it will support the incumbent president or field its own candidate.