With Armenian politicians mostly remaining dismissive of the idea of any big changes coming in the former Soviet republic after the announced political reshuffle in Russia, local analysts and media have speculated about potentially wider implications of the back-to-Putin mode in the Kremlin.
Predictions that Armenia’s ex-president Robert Kocharian will attempt to make a political comeback have remained the highlight of local analysis ever since last Saturday’s convention of Russia’s ruling Yedinaya Rossiya party broke the news of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin exchanging their offices soon.
The intended switch deemed as a foregone conclusion in Russia has particularly given rise to fresh talks in Armenia about Kocharian’s plans to actively contest next year’s parliamentary elections and possibly run for president in 2013.
In one of his most recent analytical pieces head of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center Richard Giragosian underscores that “across a wide range of areas, from military and security issues to economic and political trends, Russia exerts significant influence over Armenia.”
“The return of Putin may exert significant influence over the course of Armenian politics, as it may encourage a similar return to power by former Armenian president Robert Kocharian,” writes Giragosian.
But the analyst acknowledges that “unlike the carefully constructed Russian model of political succession… former President Kocharian has been increasingly distressed over recent shifts in Armenian politics”.
Kocharian, who served two consecutive terms as Armenia’s president from 1998 to 2008, is believed to be in closer rapport with Putin than current president Serzh Sarkisian, while Sarkisian is believed to have a greater willingness to develop ties with the West than his predecessor.
Analysts also predict that the possible pressure from Kocharian may result in Sarkisian and his current political opponent Levon Ter-Petrosian moving closer towards each other.
In an article in Lragir.am analyst Hakob Badalian suggests that Kocharian’s return to major-league politics prompted by Putin’s returning to the presidential chair in Russia may create a situation in Armenia where Armenian National Congress (HAK) leader Ter-Petrosian will back Sarkisian to fend off the perceived Kocharian menace.
“In fact, if Russia, indeed, launches the project on the reanimation of Kocharian, it will force Ter-Petrosian and Sarkisian to try and find resources in the West,” writes Badalian.
But speaking to media on Monday spokesperson for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) Eduard Sharmazanov ruled out any differences within the current governing coalition. He reiterated that President Sarkisian intends to seek a second term in office and will rely on the support of the HHK and its two junior governing coalition partners, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir, which signed a memorandum to this effect earlier this year.
After months of speculations about a possible rift within the governing coalition, the three political parties finally declared last February that they will back a single candidate to be fielded by the HHK for the 2013 presidential election.
“We’ve got this coalition memorandum and the Republican Party will press ahead with the reforms spearheaded by President Serzh Sarkisian,” stressed Sharmazanov.
Vartan Bostanjian, a parliament member representing the BHK, also ruled out any essential impact of the Kremlin reshuffle on the domestic political developments in Armenia.
“Tendencies show that there is nothing of the kind in Armenia,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
A spokesman for the BHK that has the second largest faction in the Armenian National Assembly, however, confirmed that the party’s leader Gagik Tsarukian attended the September 23-24 convention of Yedinaya Rossiya in Moscow. The BHK, which is believed to be Kocharian’s brainchild and his political support base, signed an inter-party cooperation agreement with Yedinaya Rossiya in 2008. And the fact that Tsarukian was an invited guest at the Moscow convention only fueled speculations about Kocharian’s plans to make a political comeback.
Meanwhile, a representative of Armenia’s main opposition alliance also dismissed any possible ‘Kremlin scenarios’ in Armenia.
Aram Manukian, a senior HAK member, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday that “the domestic political life in Armenia shall be decided by the Armenian people.”
But head of the parliamentary faction of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party Stepan Safarian was less categorical in his assessments. He suggested that the shape of future politics in Armenia would “largely depend on the outcomes of the 2012 parliamentary elections”.
“It will depend on how many votes the presidents poll and where they end in parliament,” he said.