By Astghik Bedevian
Tense political consultations that went on for weeks ended on Wednesday as three pro-establishment parties appeared to agree on the future government’s composition.
The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the top two finishers in Armenia’s recent parliamentary elections, signed a memorandum on a coalition government in which Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling party is set to preserve a lion’s share of portfolios.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) is expected to keep three of its current four positions in the executive after signing a cooperation deal with the new coalition partners later in the afternoon. However, as the party’s top representative told RFE/RL, this deal was signed for a period until the next presidential elections due early next year.
Unlike Dashnaktsutyun, the two parties of the emerging coalition have agreed on close partnership until the next parliamentary elections.
The HHK and BHK share between themselves as many as 90 seats in the 131-member National Assembly. However, only 25 of these seats belong to the BHK.
Wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s pro-presidential party is hoping for at least two portfolios in the Sarkisian cabinet, namely the health and urban development ministries.
The HHK won an outright parliament majority in last month’s elections that practically gave it the muscle to lead the future government single-handedly. But since the announcement of the election results in mid-May the party leadership has been willing to share government responsibility presumably in anticipation of future partners’ support for its leader’s presidential ambitions.
The HHK’s former junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, that currently holds 16 seats in the legislature, is likely to have its ministers continue in agriculture, education and social security due to its cooperation deal. While Dashnaktsutyun’s representative will continue to serve as social security minister, under the agreement this position is considered to belong to the HHK.
But the pro-presidential party’s refusal to join the coalition government is believed to leave room for its maneuvering during next year’s presidential race and possibly for fielding its own candidate for presidency.
The party is also expected to maintain its high-profile in parliament due to having its members in several key positions, including deputy speaker and heads of the foreign relations and defense committees.
The HHK is likely to maintain the speaker’s post and leadership in the rest of the parliamentary committees. A BHK representative is likely to head a standing committee on European integration yet to be formed in the new parliament.
Only three of the HHK’s current ministers will be serving as parliament members, namely Justice Minister David Harutiunian, Minister of Trade and Economic Development Karen Chshmaritian, and Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian. The other HHK-affiliated ministers included in the party’s slate during the elections rejected their parliamentary mandates.
It also transpired at the end of the day that the Central Election Commission (CEC) had received an application from HHK member Khachik Manukian elected to parliament from one of the single-mandate constituencies in which the elected representative rejected his parliamentary mandate without providing any reasoning.
However, Manukian later told RFE/RL he had not filed any application and learned about it from news.