In what appeared to be a stark warning to his predecessor Robert Kocharian, President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) indicated on Wednesday that it will not cede power to any other individual or political force in the next decade.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov said Sarkisian made this clear earlier this month when he elaborated on a constitutional reform planned by his administration.
“The head of state made clear that the voice of the HHK -- rather than the voice of a former or future leader -- must be decisive today and for the next decade,” Sharmazanov said in a special statement to the media. “Because with its level of organization, resources, experience and number of members, the HHK is the leader and will continue to be the leader of Armenia’s political system and scene over the next decade.”
“If a particular politician or statesman wishes to aspire to the highest positions over the next ten years, the main, if not the sole, path to attaining that is the HHK. To put it more simply, if anybody wants to become president or prime minister of Armenia, they will have to go through [the HHK headquarters located on Yerevan’s] Melik-Adamian Street,” he stressed in televised remarks.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessman close to Kocharian, was quick to condemn those remarks as an affront to opposition forces and scores of ordinary Armenians not supporting the current regime. “I think that the Republican Party must give explanations regarding the hints about one-party dictatorship for the next decade,” BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian said in a statement.
There was no immediate reaction from more radical opposition parties refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s rule.
Sarkisian stated on April 10 that he will not seek another reelection after completing his second five-year term in 2018. He said he will “not aspire” to the post of prime minister either if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of constitutional amendments contemplated by an ad hoc presidential commission. But he would not say whether he will retire from politics if the commission does not propose such a transformation.
The commission has until now advocated a less radical reduction of sweeping powers enjoyed by the head of state. Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the ruling HHK, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on April 11 that Sarkisian might take over as prime minister if the existing government system remains largely intact.
The BHK and other opposition forces have come out against the planned constitutional reform, saying that its main aim is to help Sarkisian stay in power after 2018. Kocharian, who governed Armenia from 1998-2008, essentially added his voice to the opposition claims last week. He also pounced on Sarkisian’s April 10 remark that “the same person must not aspire to the reins of power for more than two times.”
The Armenian constitution stipulates that the president of the republic cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. Kocharian implied that he can again run for president even if the authorities remove the word “consecutive” from this constitutional clause. Such an amendment cannot be applied retroactively to former presidents, he said.
Sharmazanov seemingly referred to Kocharian when he said on Thursday, “There are individuals who do not fully realize a new political reality emerging in Armenia and are now going out of their way to position themselves for the future. This can only make us smile.”
The ex-president, who analysts believe has been gearing up for a political comeback, stepped up his broader criticism of Sarkisian in April 22 remarks posted on his unofficial website. He described the current Armenian leadership’s six-year track record as “woeful.”