Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister highly critical of Armenia’s current leadership, has confirmed plans to set up a new political party that will challenge President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Work on the creation of the party is at a fairly advanced stage,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) over the weekend.
The announcement came one year after Oskanian quit the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in parliament, following its founding leader Gagik Tsarukian’s capitulation in a brief standoff with Sarkisian.
Tsarukian resigned as BHK leader and retired from politics altogether under strong government pressure. Both he and Oskanian have long been regarded as figures close to former President Robert Kocharian. The latter has increasingly criticized the Sarkisian administration in recent years.
Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s top diplomat throughout former Kocharian’s 1998-2008 rule, said he continues to maintain a “normal relationship” with the ex-president. But he insisted that Kocharian “has no connection” with the new party to be formed by him.
Asked what he will do if Kocharian returns to active politics and seeks to join the party, Oskanian said: “I have no problem with Kocharian. There is a certain popular perception of this. I’ll just note now the fact that Kocharian has nothing to with this new party that is going to be formed.”
Oskanian also said that he stands for the consolidation of political groups which share his belief that Armenia is “not on the right development track.” “The country is really in a state of stagnation and we are faced with serious problems,” he said. “Everyone realizes that something needs to be changed in the country.”
Oskanian became one of the harshest BHK critics of President Sarkisian after he joined Tsarukian’s party in early 2012, shortly before it pulled out of Armenia’s former coalition government. He has since been the target of frequent verbal attacks from Sarkisian’s political allies.