Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian was in no rush to endorse on Friday a presidential candidate nominated by the outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
A senior member of the Tsarukian Bloc, Naira Zohrabian, said it will wait and see whether the potential candidate, Armen Sarkissian, accepts the nomination. “We will formulate a position when Armen Sarkissian makes a final decision,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Tsarukian earlier did not rule out the possibility of throwing his weight behind an HHK presidential candidate. He also said that his bloc, which claims to be in opposition to the government, will not field a presidential candidate of its own.
Armen Sarkissian told the outgoing president earlier on Friday that he needs “some time” to decide whether to accept the nomination. He said he will make that decision after holding consultations with leaders of Armenia’s main political groups.
Under the Armenian constitution, the parliament must choose the next president of the republic by March 10, one month before the end of Serzh Sarkisian’s final term. A presidential candidate has to be backed by a three-fourths and two-thirds majority of lawmakers in order to win in the first and second rounds of voting respectively.
A simple majority of votes is enough to win the presidency in the third round. The HHK has such a majority in the National Assembly.
Nevertheless, Serzh Sarkisian stressed the importance of multi-partisan support for his preferred successor. He said he therefore hopes that Armen Sarkissian would win outright in the first round.
In that case, Sarkissian would need the backing of at least 79 members of the 105-seat parliament. The ruling HHK and its junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), control 65 seats between them, compared with 31 seats held by the Tsarukian Bloc.
Dashnaktsutyun’s parliamentary leader, Artem Rustamian, also made clear that his party has yet to decide whether to vote for Armen Sarkissian. Still, he spoke highly of the man currently serving as Armenia’s ambassador to Britain.
“We have known Mr. Sarkissian and have had relations with him for a long time,” Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The opposition Yelk alliance, the fourth group represented in parliament, moved to field its own presidential hopeful, Artak Zeynalian, late last year. The constitution stipulates that only those individuals who are endorsed by at least 27 deputies can run for president. Yelk holds 9 parliament seats. It appears to have failed to win the Tsarukian Bloc’s support for Zeynalian’s candidacy.