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Sarkisian Names Reelection Campaign Chief


Armenia - Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian at a news conference in Yerevan, 2Nov2012.

Armenia - Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian at a news conference in Yerevan, 2Nov2012.

Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian said on Tuesday that he will manage President Serzh Sarkisian’s campaign in the upcoming presidential election and might again resign because of that.

“It has already been decided that I will run the campaign headquarters,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.

Abrahamian, who is also a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), already managed Sarkisian’s and the HHK’s last election campaigns. The latest appointment highlights his enduring political clout.

The former deputy prime minister resigned as parliament speaker in November last year when he announced that he will run the HHK campaign for the May 2012 parliamentary elections.

Asked whether he will again step down, Abrahamian said, “Such an issue has not yet been discussed … In politics, never say never.”

The appointment could again put Abrahamian in a delicate position seeing as Sarkisian’s likely main challenger will be Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessman whose Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) was part of the country’s governing coalition until last June. There is lingering talk of his close personal ties with the tycoon. One of the speaker’s sons is married to one of Tsarukian’s daughters.

Abrahamian, who too has extensive business interests, downplayed this fact, saying that it has no bearing on his political activities. “Even if Gagik Tsarukian runs for president, I will wholeheartedly support Serzh Sarkisian’s candidacy and do everything for his victory,” he said.

The influential speaker also made clear that he will seek to ensure that Mikael Minasian, Sarkisian’s son-in-law and reputedly closest confidante, is also deeply involved in the president’s reelection campaign. Minasian was the ruling HHK’s deputy campaign chief in this year’s parliamentary race. Some local commentators speculated that his main task is to oversee Abrahamian and make sure that the latter does not secretly aid Tsarukian’s party.

Abrahamian shrugged off that speculation. “Unfortunately, media claims are not always true. This is one such case,” he said.

Opposition leaders have long accused Abrahamian of being one of the main architects of chronic electoral fraud in Armenia. They refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s and the HHK’s landslide election victories.

The speaker insisted on Tuesday that the Armenian authorities will do their best to ensure that the February presidential election is “free, fair and transparent.”
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