By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The refusal by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) to endorse Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian will not reflect negatively on his chances of winning the approaching presidential election, one of his top allies said on Monday.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders have repeatedly made it clear that they will nominate their own presidential candidate despite being represented in Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet formed as a result of the May 12 parliamentary elections.
Sarkisian reportedly tried hard to convince them to back his presidential bid, mindful of the pro-establishment party’s political clout and close ties with the worldwide Armenian Diaspora. Local observers believe that Dashnaktsutyun’s stance will make it more difficult for him to win the election, due in February or March, outright and avoid a risky run-off with an opposition challenger.
However, Karen Karapetian, who leads the parliament faction of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), insisted that the Armenian premier is strong and popular enough to become the country’s next president without Dashnaktsutyun’s backing.
“It would be very desirable for coalition forces to act with a single candidate,” Karapetian told RFE/RL in an interview. “But even if Dashnaktsutyun fields its own candidate, there will be nothing extraordinary. Let the party, which has a lot of experience, try its luck.”
“We consider our forces to be totally sufficient,” he said.
The HHK swept to a landslide victory in the May elections owing to his vast financial resources and control of many government bodies. Sarkisian is expected to again heavily rely the so-called “administrative resources” during the presidential ballot.
Karapetian was confident that Sarkisian will be endorsed by the Prosperous Armenia Party (HHK), the HHK’s second, more influential coalition partner, and “many other parties and non-governmental organizations.” He said the HHK’s power-sharing agreement with the BHK stipulates that the two political groups must field a common presidential candidate.
The BHK is officially led by millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian and widely regarded as President Robert Kocharian’s new power base. Kocharian has yet to publicly throw his weight behind Sarkisian’s presidential ambitions.
Karapetian denied in that regard persistent speculation about friction between Armenia’s two most powerful men. He refused to be drawn on what the HHK think Kocharian should do after completing his second and final term in office.
“It’s up to them to decide,” Karapetian said when asked whether Sarkisian will appoint Kocharian as prime minister if even becomes president.
(Photolur photo: Karen Karapetian.)