President Serzh Sarkisian held separate talks over the weekend with the leaders of two former members of his governing coalition that could challenge him in Armenia’s upcoming presidential election.
Sources told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sarkisian and Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian discussed the vote on Saturday as the Central Election Commission formally scheduled it for February 18.
The meeting was not officially confirmed by either side. “Every day the president holds many business meetings about which no official statements are made,” said Armen Arzumanian, Sarkisian’s press secretary. He did not comment further.
Tsarukian’s spokeswoman Ivetta Tonoyan, for her part, said that she has no information about the reported talks.
The talks came amid growing signs that Tsarukian, whose Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet in June, will challenge the incumbent in the presidential ballot. The BHK leader is expected to announce his election-related stance this week.
Tonoyan denied media reports that the BHK’s governing Political Council will meet on Monday to again discuss the party’s participation in the election.
Sarkisian also met separately with Hrant Markarian and Armen Rustamian of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another former coalition partner. The meeting focused on a 7-point political platform that was put forward by Dashnaktsutyun last month.
Markarian said on Monday that Sarkisian rejected at least two of those ideas promoted by his party: Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic and a formal annulment of Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed three years ago. Dashnaktsutyun quit the government in April 2009 in protest against those agreements.
“Was the meeting with the president useless?” said Markarian. “If we look at it only in a purely functional way, then probably yes. But it also made sense because our arguments and views might influence his thinking.”
“If that happens, we will be grateful. If not, we will have no regrets that we did not try,” he told journalists.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders discussed their proposed platform with the BHK and other opposition forces before Saturday’s meeting with the president. Markarian spoke of a “good atmosphere” in those discussions and a “real chance” of reaching a broad-based agreement on sweeping political changes sought by the party. But he admitted that reaching agreement on a single opposition presidential candidate will be “difficult.”
Dashnaktsutyun has still not announced whom it will support in the presidential race. It is expected to make a decision later this month.