By Emil DanielyanHovik Abrahamian, the influential chief of President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff, was easily elected to the National Assembly at the weekend amid mounting speculation that he is poised to become the new speaker of Armenia’s parliament.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), Abrahamian won more than 98 percent of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary by-election in a constituency in southern Armenia that is widely considered his and his extended family’s de facto fiefdom. The former deputy prime minister and minister for local government ran for parliament unopposed.
The parliament seat was previously held by Abrahamian’s brother Henrik. The latter resigned in June to enable Abrahamian to become a parliament deputy and possibly get a leadership position in the National Assembly.
The resignation stoked media speculation that Armenia’s leadership has decided to replace the current parliament speaker, Tigran Torosian, by Abrahamian. Torosian has reacted angrily to the rumors, saying that he has no plans to quit.
By contrast, Abrahamian has pointedly declined to refute them. In a recent newspaper interview, he said it is up to the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to decide what position he should hold in the parliament. Both he and Torosian are senior members of the HHK.
Sarkisian has not yet publicly commented on the issue. Expert opinion is divided on the nature of his rapport with Abrahamian. Some local commentators believe that Sarkisian does not trust his chief of staff because of the latter’s close ties with former President Robert Kocharian and may have duped Abrahamian into leaving the presidential administration.
Other analysts point out, however, that Abrahamian managed the HHK’s and Sarkisian’s campaigns in the last national elections and should therefore enjoy the president’s trust. They also cite the fact that the recently appointed chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, is a figure close to Abrahamian.