Businessman Gagik Tsarukian and his political alliance have thrown their weight behind the man nominated by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) for the post of Armenia’s president.
With the Tsarukian Bloc controlling the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, the decision means that the presidential candidate, Armen Sarkissian, will almost certainly be elected head of state in the first round of voting slated for March 2.
Under the Armenian constitution, Sarkissian needs to be backed by at least 79 members of the 105-seat National Assembly in order to win outright. The HHK and the Tsarukian Bloc hold 65 and 31 parliament seats respectively.
The bloc, which is officially in opposition to the government, announced the endorsement of Sarkissian’s candidacy after a weekend meeting of its parliamentary faction chaired by Tsarukian.
In his televised remarks made at the meeting, Tsarukian praised the former Armenian prime minister, saying that the latter has pledged to help create many jobs and attract “big investments” to Armenia. “He is now saying what we all say, desire and aim for,” added the tycoon.
As part of his consultations held with various Armenian political groups in recent weeks, Sarkissian has met separately with Tsarukian and senior lawmakers from his bloc.
Sarkissian’s endorsement by Tsarukian also means that he we will be running for president unopposed. The opposition Yelk alliance moved in December to nominate its own presidential candidate, Artak Zeynalian. It asked the Tsarukian Bloc to support Zeynalian’s candidacy.
The recently amended constitution stipulates that a presidential hopeful has to be backed by at least 27 lawmakers to have their name included on the ballot. Yelk holds only 9 parliament seats.
The next president of the republic will be sworn in on April 9. With Armenia switching to a parliamentary system of government, he will have largely ceremonial powers.