By Karine Kalantarian
The chief of President Robert Kocharian’s staff confirmed on Friday his reported intention to form his own political party with an eye to Armenia’s next parliamentary elections due in 2007.
“My supporters and I are thinking about setting up a new party,” said Artashes Tumanian. “We are also engaged in some unpublicized activities in order to test the timeliness of our ideas and our potential. If the party is created and establishes itself, it will contest the 2007 parliamentary elections.”
“I have taken part in all elections that have taken place in Armenia since 1990 and think that I should also participate in the 2007 elections in some way,” he told reporters.
Tumanian rose to prominence in 1991 when he was elected deputy speaker of Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament. He headed the Armenian government’s tax collection department in the late 1990s before taking over the presidential administration.
Tumanian, who has not been affiliated with any party since the Soviet collapse, was endorsed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) in the last two parliamentary elections held in 1999 and 2003. He got elected in the latter case but chose to keep his current job.
Speaking at a news conference, Tumanian was reluctant to disclose the make-up and political orientation of the new party “which I am contemplating and with which my future might be connected.” Among politicians who have reportedly been asked to consider joining it are Shavarsh Kocharian, a leader of the opposition Artarutyun bloc, and his close associates.
Tumanian is also known for his personal oversight of $150 million worth of infrastructure projects that were implemented in Armenia between 2001 and 2004 by the Lincy Foundation of U.S.-Armenian billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Kerkorian announced in July that he will donate another $60 million for the repair of highways, streets and schools in the impoverished country.
According to Tumanian, work on the new projects is expected to take years and be complete by September 2008. Asked if there is any connection between its timing and the next presidential elections due in early 2008, the official replied: “Frankly, I don’t know. Any other questions?”
(Photolur photo: Artashes Tumanian.)