Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister highly critical of Armenia’s current leadership, officially announced on Wednesday the establishment of his new political party that will challenge President Serzh Sarkisian.
Oskanian and 13 other well-known individuals said their party named Hamakhmbum (Consolidation) will fight for “profound changes” in the country.
“The society has long been disappointed with the existing political system that has taken shape over the years and made it impossible to create fair political and economic relationships,” they declared a joint statement.
“We are making a bid to become a pivotal, rather than just another, political force,” they said.
Oskanian and three other signatories are parliament deputies that were affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) until its founding leader, Gagik Tsarukian, was forced into political retirement after capitulating in a standoff with President Sarkisian a year ago. They are regarded by some observers as loyalists of former President Robert Kocharian.
Oskanian, who served as foreign minister throughout Kocharian’s 1998-2008 rule, insisted that his party has “no connection whatsoever” with the ex-president. He said it plans to mount a serious challenge against Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party (HHK) in next year’s “fateful” parliamentary elections.
In that regard, Oskanian ruled out the possibility of any power-sharing deals with the HHK as a result of the elections due in May 2017. “Our positions and approaches are substantially different,” he told reporters. “It is evident that the ruling force has had no major successes during all these years and that the people are looking for an alternative.”
In their manifesto, Oskanian and the other founders of the party said they will strive to eradicate Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud and create a level playing field for all businesses. They also called for changes in Armenian foreign policy but did not go into details, saying only that Armenia should simultaneously deepen its ties with Russia, the European Union, the United States, Iran and Georgia.