Former President Robert Kocharian flew back to Armenia late on Thursday shortly after the upsurge in political tensions between the Armenian government and a key opposition force.
Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, flatly denied on Friday any connection between his return and the announcement of a government offensive against Gagik Tsarukian, an opposition leader reputedly close to the ex-president.
Soghomonian told the Yerevan.Today.am website that Kocharian travelled to Europe and booked a return flight for February 12 two weeks ago. “Robert Kocharian’s return to Yerevan is in no way connected to yesterday’s political events,” he said.
Kocharian’s political future has been the subject of intense media speculation in Armenia in the last few years. The ex-president, who handed over power to Serzh Sarkisian in 2008, has fuelled expectations of his imminent return to active politics with his criticisms of the current government’s track record. Commentators have suggested that he would heavily rely on Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in parliament, in his bid to return to power.
Citing an unnamed former senior official in the Kocharian administration, the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” said early on Thursday that the ex-president will announce his comeback if Sarkisian presses ahead with a constitutional reform fiercely resisted by the BHK and other opposition forces.
Sarkisian defended the planned reform in a landmark speech delivered later on Thursday. He also lambasted Tsarukian in unusually strong terms. Kocharian has not yet reacted to the speech.
In his most recent public statement made late last month, Kocharian called for an end to Sarkisian’s “political monopoly” and other “radical changes” in the country.