Former President Robert Kocharian ruled out his participation in next February’s presidential election on Thursday the day after a politician widely regarded as his key ally unexpectedly pulled out of the race.
“I have never heard from the second president about his desire to nominate his candidacy,” Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, told the Mediamax news agency. “Furthermore, he has said the opposite for several times. I don’t think that he will participate in these presidential elections.”
“But Robert Kocharian will certainly give his assessments of the current political situation in the near future,” Soghomonian said.
The remarks came one day after the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian, a businessman reputedly close to Kocharian, announced that it will not field or endorse a presidential candidate. The BHK had for months indicated that Tsarukian will challenge President Serzh Sarkisian in the February 18 vote.
Kocharian, who governed Armenia from 1998-2008, has likewise repeatedly signaled his desire to return to the political arena in the last two years. Many local observers regard him as Tsarukian’s political patron. Some have speculated that the BHK would serve as a platform for the 58-year-old ex-president’s possible comeback.
Speaking to Mediamax in May, Kocharian downplayed his alleged links with the BHK but criticized the Sarkisian government’s economic track record and. Kocharian gave similar indications of his desire to regain a key role in the country’s political life in another Mediamax interview published in September 2011.
Just a few days later Tsarukian pointedly declined to reaffirm support for Sarkisian’s candidacy in the next presidential election due in 2013. Relations between the BHK and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) worsened after that, leading to the BHK’s withdrawal from the governing coalition in June 2012.
Kocharian fuelled more talk of his ties to the BHK last month when he effectively backed sweeping political reforms proposed by Tsarukian’s party. Those envisaged Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic and the holding of parliamentary elections only on a party-list basis.
The ruling HHK reacted angrily to those proposals, attributing them to unnamed “people who have no chance of coming to power with their own face and without being shrouded.”
Soghomonian, Kocharian’s spokesman, on Thursday also denied media claims that the ex-president and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will again meet soon. “Robert Kocharian is indeed in Moscow, but only with the aim of taking part in a meeting of the board of directors of [the Russian holding company] AFK Sistema,” he said. “A meeting with Putin is not planned.”
Kocharian is known to have repeatedly met Putin in Moscow (most recently last March) since handing over power to Sarkisian in 2008. He noted in May his “particular mutual understanding” and “continuous relations” with the Russian leader.
Armenian media outlets critical of Kocharian have accused him of seeking Moscow’s backing for his alleged efforts to return to power. Kocharian has denied that.