Artur Baghdasarian resigned as secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council on Friday, reaffirming the decision by his Orinats Yerkir Party to withdraw from President Serzh Sarkisian’s government.
The Orinats Yerkir leadership announced the decision on April 16, two weeks after the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian. It said the party will not seek any ministerial portfolios in the cabinet of newly appointed Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and will now be in opposition.
“Why did we quit? Because we had no influence on [government] decisions,” Baghdasarian told a news conference. He also attributed the move to the change of the government in which his party was represented by three ministers.
Asked by journalists why his party, which joined Sarkisian’s ruling coalition in 2008, took so long to realize its lack of influence, he said, “We tried to increase our role for six years. Furthermore, we supported Serzh Sarkisian in the presidential elections and tried to increase our role … We failed to do that.”
While saying that Orinats Yerkir is now ready to cooperate with the Armenian opposition, Baghdasarian made clear that he will not demand President Sarkisian’s resignation because he thinks that would be “immoral.” “Why? Because we have worked with Serzh Sarkisian for six years. As I said, Serzh Sarkisian and I are friends whose paths have now separated.”
Besides, continued Baghdasarian, the president does not plan to stay in power after completing his second term in 2018. “Serzh Sarkisian himself has announced his departure,” he claimed. “That statement surprised even me.”
Neither Sarkisian nor his political allies have categorically ruled out the possibility of him becoming prime minister in 2018. Opposition leaders say this is the reason why Sarkisian now wants to curtail sweeping constitutional powers vested in the presidency and transfer some of them to the parliament and the prime minister.
Baghdasarian has been a staunch presidential ally ever since he finished third in a 2008 presidential election that formalized the handover of power from President Robert Kocharian to Sarkisian. Orinats Yerkir as well as two other parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun, joined a coalition government formed by Sarkisian after the disputed ballot.
Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK withdrew from the coalition for different reasons in 2009 and 2012 respectively. In recent months they have increasingly cooperated with more radical opposition parties that do not recognize the president’s legitimacy.
Orinats Yerkir’s opposition credentials have already been questioned by some politicians and media commentators. They claim that Baghdasarian will now secretly collaborate with Sarkisian. The fact that the Orinats Yerkir leader will run a special academy that will be set up in Yerevan this September by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization has only added to this speculation.
Baghdasarian insisted, however, that his new position “will not inhibit” him and his party in any way. The party holds 6 seats in Armenia’s 131-member parliament.