By Nane Atshemian
Leaders of a newly formed grouping of several small parties loyal to President Robert Kocharian voiced at the weekend their support for Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s possible bid to become Armenia’s next head of state.
The five left-wing parties that unveiled their alliance at a news conference are the first Armenian political groups to publicly endorse Sarkisian’s reported presidential ambitions.
“In case of expanding his powers the defense minister will realize our nation’s dreams and aspirations,” said Tigran Urikhanian of the staunchly pro-Kocharian Progressive Party. “I don’t know whether or not he will run in the next elections … But if he runs we will definitely support him.”
“I absolutely agree with that,” said Yuri Manukian, the leader of the United Communist Party, another member of the alliance.
Both Urikhanian and Manukian are known for their outspoken criticism of Kocharian’s and Sarkisian’s political foes which they usually voice during an upsurge in opposition activity in the country. Opposition leaders have dismissed the two flamboyant politicians as government “agents.”
Sarkisian has long been regarded as Armenia’s second most powerful leader and is widely believed to be Kocharian’s preferred successor. Sarkisian’s brother Aleksandr said in a recent newspaper interview that he is “the best candidate to succeed Robert Kocharian.”
However, the influential defense chief has so far refused to comment on his possible participation in the next presidential election due in 2008. “There is still more than three years left [before the completion of Kocharian’s second term in office],” he told reporters last month. “Why are we hurrying?”
Armenia’s three biggest pro-Kocharian parties represented in government also say that it is still too early for them to formulate a position on Kocharian’s succession.