A senior representative of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance said on Tuesday that it has not yet decided whom to nominate or endorse for the post of Armenia’s next president who will be elected by parliament in March.
“The Tsarukian Bloc does not support anyone at the moment,” Gevorg Petrosian told reporters. “The issue is not on its agenda yet.”
Under the Armenian constitution controversially amended in 2015, the next head of state must be chosen one month before President Serzh Sarkisian completes his second and final term in early April. The end of his decade-long rule will be followed by the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. It means that Sarkisian’s successor will have largely ceremonial powers.
The opposition Yelk alliance announced last week that it wants to nominate one of its senior members, Artak Zeynalian, for the job and will try to secure the Tsarukian Bloc’s backing for his candidacy.
The constitution stipulates that only those individuals who are backed by at least 27 members of the 105-seat National Assembly can run for president. Yelk holds only 9 parliament seats, compared with 31 seats controlled by the Tsarukian Bloc. The latter also claims to be in opposition to Sarkisian.
Petrosian said that Tsarukian and his political team have not yet discussed Yelk’s proposal. “Have they found out whether or not we have our own candidate?” he said.
“If we do have a candidate the public will naturally be informed about that,” he said. “We may not have one. But just because we don’t have a candidate would not mean that we are obliged to back the Yelk candidate.”
Petrosian also pointedly declined to rule out the possibility of the Tsarukian Bloc endorsing the presidential candidate to be fielded by Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The HHK, which controls the parliament majority, has still not clarified whom its wants to succeed Sarkisian as president of the republic.
Meanwhile, one of Yelk’s leaders, Aram Sargsian, insisted that his bloc is not challenging Tsarukian to prove his opposition credentials questioned by many Armenian commentators. “We just want to show that we deserve to replace the authorities,” he said. “As for whether or not others are in opposition it’s up to them to prove that.”
Another Yelk leader, Nikol Pashinian, acknowledged last week that the Yelk candidate is extremely unlikely to get elected. He said Yelk is primarily keen to show many Armenians that they were wrong to vote for the HHK in the April 2017 general elections.