Former President Robert Kocharian underscored his deepening rift with President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday, describing as “woeful” the current Armenian leadership’s track record and denouncing its controversial plans for constitutional reform.
In what appeared to be his most scathing attack yet on his successor and erstwhile ally, Kocharian hit back at Sarkisian’s thinly veiled criticism of his increasingly frequent public statements widely seen as a prelude to the ex-president’s political comeback.
“I’m not going to debate with him because we are talking about his subjective feelings,” Kocharian told is unofficial website, 2rd.am. “Especially given that the evaluation of my work in the highest positions in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh does not depend on the effectiveness of the current authorities in any way.”
“I regret that the president did not distinguish sincere concern about the country’s future from schadenfreude about the woeful results of the authorities’ activities,” he said.
Kocharian referred to Sarkisian’s remarks at an April 13 meeting of the leadership of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) during which he announced Hovik Abrahamian’s appointment as Armenia’s new prime minister. The president praised the previous premier, Tigran Sarkisian, and blasted unnamed former officials who “always look for their successes in the failings of current officials.”
“Those who could have achieved serious results but didn’t years ago are not teaching others how to work in the same conditions and the same position,” Serzh Sarkisian said in a clear reference to a recent bitter war of words between Kocharian and Tigran Sarkisian.
Kocharian, who has previously accused the current authorities of mismanaging the Armenian economy, scoffed at Sarkisian’s praise of the ex-premier. “Presumably, you can’t be proud of such a record,” he said.
Kocharian, who governed Armenia from 1998-2008, also made clear he is against significant amendments to the country’s constitution which Sarkisian plans to enact before completing his second and final presidential term in 2018. He said the official rationale for the planned reform is “not convincing” and cited “serious suspicions” about ulterior motives behind it.
“We need clear guarantees that the reform is not aimed at serving the interests of the ruling elite and would not become a tool for its reproduction,” the ex-president told 2rd.am. “Any modification of the constitution for the sake of politicians’ current interests is a sign of the country’s degradation.”
Kocharian thus echoed opposition claims that Sarkisian, who is not allowed to seek a third consecutive presidential term, is intent to staying in power as prime minister after 2018. Sarkisian and his political allies do not explicitly deny this, while insisting that their primary aim is to put in a place a more effective system of constitutional checks and balances.
A presidential commission tasked with drafting amendments publicized earlier this month a “concept” for the constitutional reform that calls for transferring some of the sweeping powers enjoyed by the head of state to the prime minister. Its chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, said the authorities hope to put corresponding constitutional amendments on a referendum by the beginning of 2016.
The proposed changes have been rejected out of hand by some of Armenia’s leading political parties challenging the Sarkisian administration. Among them is the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessman close to Kocharian. The BHK boasts the second largest parliamentary faction and is regarded by analysts as Kocharian’s main support base. It has increasingly cooperated with established opposition groups like the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in recent months amid growing signs that the ex-president would like to return to active politics.
The authorities reacted to Kocharian’s latest pronouncements later on Tuesday, with the recently appointed Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian insisting that changes in the constitution are necessary for solving “very important issues facing the country” and have nothing to do with Sarkisian’s political future.
“I am sure that if our political forces and figures follow Serzh Sarkisian’s example and clearly disclose their future plans without any ambiguity, then our country will manage to rapidly achieve, including through constitutional reforms, a serious positive change on our development path,” Abrahamian told News.am.
“As for the evaluation of the results of the authorities’ work, it will be given by time, which is objective, can see things in context and is devoid of schadenfreude,” added the man who served as deputy prime minister in the Kocharian administration.