By Hovannes Shoghikian
President Robert Kocharian will not retire from the political arena after completing his second and final term in office early next year, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian said on Thursday.
Kocharian, 52, made it clear last December he will not become Armenia’s “youngest pensioner” after his ten-year presidency. The statement was construed as a further indication that he wants to stay in government in some other capacity.
Sarkisian, who is widely regarded as Kocharian’s most likely successor, was reluctant to dwell on Kocharian’s political future as he briefly spoke with RFE/RL after attending an official ceremony that marked the 15th anniversary of the creation of Armenian interior troops.
Asked what he thinks Kocharian should do in the event of his victory in the 2008 presidential election, Sarkisian said: “Why are you asking me? You should ask Robert Kocharian because he is the one who will decide where he should be.”
“In any case, he won’t be a pensioner,” the premier added with a cheerful grin.
The Armenian press has been rife with speculation that Kocharian has specifically set his sights on the post of prime minister. The landslide victory of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) and worse-than-expected performance of the Kocharian-sponsored Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) in the May 12 parliamentary elections is thought to have complicated the realization of those putative plans.
Sarkisian also shrugged off a newspaper report alleging that he had a tense meeting with Kocharian during which he demanded that the latter step down this September and thereby push forward the date of the presidential election. “I don’t know what paper wrote that,” he said. “I don’t think a serious newspaper would write such a thing. This is not true.”
The opposition newspaper “Hayk” also claimed on Wednesday that Kocharian rejected the demands and threatened to withdraw his support for Sarkisian’s presidential bid.