Former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, who is an opposition-leaning lawmaker in Armenia’s current legislature, has not ruled out the possibility of standing for president in next year’s election despite being prosecuted on what he and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) describe as “politically motivated” charges.
In an interview with CivilNet TV Oskanian, who was formally charged in a high-profile money laundering investigation earlier on Monday and now faces up to 12 years in prison on two counts of the penal code, said that while it was upon the BHK to make a decision on whether or not it will contest the February 2013 presidential ballot with its own candidate, he personally felt the party got the political muscle to challenge the current administration.
“What I am going to say is my personal opinion. Considering the fact that the BHK today is a party that has a solid reputation in Armenia and people have great expectations from it, I think it will only be right if it contests the presidential election with its own candidate,” said Oskanian.
“It is natural that the first choice as candidate should be the party’s leader Gagik Tsarukian. However, if Mr. Tsarukian decides that he doesn’t want to be a candidate and the party decides on my candidacy, I am ready to assume this responsibility,” he added.
The BHK representative known for his hard-hitting criticism of the government before and after last May’s parliamentary elections said that even the prospect of increased pressure from the current administration should not put the party off.
“This will meet the interests of Armenia. Our people will have a real alternative, and the international community will treat us as a country that has truly embarked on a democratic path,” said Oskanian.
Last Tuesday, shortly after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity to face prosecution, Oskanian wrote on his Facebook account that neighboring Georgia, where the opposition was celebrating its victory in parliamentary elections that day, had politically moved farther ahead of Armenia by ensuring a “political counterbalance”.
Oskanian further argued that it was the monolithic power in Armenia that resulted in the decision of the National Assembly to easily grant the request of the prosecutor-general for his immunity to be lifted.
“Our penal laws are based on the presumption of innocence, which implies that lawmakers should have demanded evidence to have no reasonable doubts about the charge and only then agreed to my immunity being lifted. This wasn’t the case because there was a political order for that from above,” he concluded.