By Irina Hovannisian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Wednesday that it has been offered senior positions in a new government to be formed by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and is currently weighing up its options.
Sarkisian appears willing to share power with Dashnaktsutyun and other parties loyal to President Robert Kocharian, even though his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) won an outright majority in parliament in this month’s general elections. Observers believe he is thereby trying to broaden political support for his bid to succeed Kocharian early next year.
Meeting with Western election observers on Tuesday, Sarkisian said the HHK is ready to “engage able parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces into both the government and the National Assembly” in order to maximize popular trust in his new cabinet. A government statement cited him as saying that “negotiations are already being conducted in that direction.”
Armen Rustamian, a top Dashnaktsutyun leader, confirmed that the nationalist party, which is represented in Sarkisian’s outgoing cabinet, is involved in those talks but refused to give details. “We are holding discussions right now and I wouldn’t like to make any comments now,” he told RFE/RL.
“There have been various kinds of offers, but we can not say anything concrete at the moment,” Rustamian said, adding that a decision will be made “very soon.”
Another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian, said he hopes his party will choose to stay in government and allow him to retain his job. “I have a desire to work because we have just launched a program [of education reforms] and can see its first results,” he told RFE/RL.
“It all depends on the party’s decision,” added Mkrtchian. “That is, if Dashnaktsutyun decides to be part [of the new government] I will keep working. If it decides otherwise, I will comply with that decision.”
Rustamian has repeatedly stated before that Dashnaktsutyun will not serve as a “fifth wheel” in a coalition government not dependent on its parliamentary backing. Nonetheless, the influential party seems ready, in principle, to remain in government, despite the fact that the HHK will be able to single-handedly control the parliament.
During the election campaign Dashnaktsutyun leaders implicitly laid claim to the posts of defense and education ministers. Newspaper reports have said that they are also demanding the post of parliament speaker. It is not clear if they are ready to endorse Sarkisian’s presidential bid in return.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian, which came in a distant second in the elections, is also presumably involved in the ongoing talks. Despite winning 25 parliament seats, the pro-Kocharian party is hardly in a position to dictate to the HHK, though.
Neither Tsarukian, nor other BHK leaders have commented on their party’s performance in the polls so far. This is construed by commentators as a sign that the election outcome did not live up to their expectations.
Under the Armenian constitution, Kocharian has to appoint a prime minister nominated by the parliament majority within ten days from the first session of the newly elected National Assembly expected on June 7. The new premier will have 20 days to form his cabinet.
(Photolur photo: Armen Rustamian.)