By Astghik Bedevian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and other leaders of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) were due to meet late Wednesday to approve the list of its candidates for this spring’s parliamentary elections.
Most of those candidates will contest the elections under the system of proportional representation whereby voters choose parties or blocs, as opposed to individuals. Ninety out of the 131 seats in the National Assembly will be distributed on the party list basis.
A senior HHK member, who asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL that the HHK’s proportional list will be topped by Markarian and Sarkisian, followed by parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, senior lawmaker Karen Karapetian and the influential Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian. He said it will also comprise a number of other prominent Republicans as well as at least five other members of Markarian’s cabinet.
Those include Trade Minister Karen Chshmaritian, Transport Minister Andranik Markarian, Urban Development Minister Aram Harutiunian, Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian and Justice Minister David Harutiunian. The latter has had no links with the HHK until now and reportedly decided to join Armenia’s main “party of power” at the last minute. President Robert Kocharian is thought to have personally made sure that Harutiunian, his longtime protégé, is included on the Republican list.
The HHK board was also expected to nominate candidates in most of the 41 single-mandate individual constituencies across Armenia. They are typically businessmen or other wealthy individuals with close ties to the government and Sarkisian in particular.
As always, wealthy candidates will also be included on the party’s proportional list. Markarian and other Republicans have denied earning them parliament mandates for cash.
The HHK will be looking to retain the largest faction in parliament after May 12, something which is essential for the success of Sarkisian’s presidential ambitions. Observers say it will be challenged not only by Armenia’s fragmented opposition but some pro-Kocharian groups such as businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
The extent of rivalry between the HHK and the BHK remains unclear, with some analysts predicting that they will jointly form the next Armenian cabinet following the vote. There are already whispers suggesting that the two parties have privately agreed not to compete against each in single-mandate constituencies.