By Ruzanna Stepanian
President Robert Kocharian intends to continue to play a key role in Armenian politics and government affairs after completing his second, presumably final term in office in just over a year from now, his national security adviser said on Monday.
Garnik Isagulian predicted that Kocharian will retain his “big influence” on political processes in the country, giving more weight to suggestions that the Armenian leader is aiming for another high-level government post.
“The role to be played by President Kocharian [after his anticipated resignation] will be quite large,” Isagulian told reporters. “Life will tell,” he said when asked to specify what concrete forms it might take.
Armenia’s constitution bars incumbent presidents from staying in power for a third consecutive term, and Kocharian has so far left no indication that he will try to find a legal loophole for contesting the presidential election due in early 2008. There are growing signs that his most influential and longtime associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, is his preferred candidate for the Armenian presidency.
The Armenian press has been rife with speculation that Kocharian would like to serve as prime minister after 2008. The 52-year-old president, who came to power in 1998, himself stoked it at a November 2005 meeting with university students in Yerevan. “Who is better than I in terms of knowledge, experience, hard work and resilience?” he said, answering a question about his political plans for the future.
Kocharian has been heavily linked with a new but extremely ambitious party set up by Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s wealthiest government-connected men. The party called Prosperous Armenia has effectively kicked off its well-financed campaign for next spring’s parliamentary elections recently with a large-scale distribution of relief aid to impoverished farmers across the country.
Local analysts believe that Prosperous Armenia’s main mission is to win strong presence in the next parliament and serve as Kocharian’s main support base. Some say it is also meant to hold Sarkisian and the governing Republican Party of (HHK) in check.
But Isagulian, who makes no secret of his strong support for Sarkisian’s apparent presidential ambitions, denied any rivalry between Armenia’s two most powerful men. He also indicated his intention to team up with the HHK ahead of the upcoming parliamentary polls.