Two days after resigning from the post of the chairman of the Public Council Vazgen Manukian has announced his plans to return to politics.
The 73-year-old veteran politician, who served as Armenia’s defense minister and prime minister in the 1990s and was an official runner-up in the country’s presidential election in 1996, headed the non-political advisory body for more than a decade before quitting his job earlier this week after being accused by some parliamentarians of political bias.
In presenting his resignation, Manukian criticized the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian of allowing “an atmosphere of mistrust and hatred of an unprecedented level to be formed in our country.”
“Our society is split the way it has never been split before,” he charged.
Representatives of the ruling My Step bloc dismissed Manukian’s criticism.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday, Manukian said that he is reviving his National Democratic Union, a political party that once was prominent in Armenia’s political field and was represented in the country’s legislatures in 1995-2003.
“I expect we will probably have a convention next spring… That will signify my entry into the political arena,” he said.
In the meantime, the Vernatun public-political club set up by Manukian held its first meeting today. Among those who attended the meeting were mainly former officials and members of the governing coalition, including members of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun), representatives of the circles close to Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharyan, including chief of his office Viktor Soghomonian.
Manukian denied that former officials or circles closed to them sponsor the club’s activities. He said the club existed on membership fees, but refused to give the names of any people paying these membership fees. “This is a club, the payments are made officially, they get registered in the bank, go and find it out from the banks,” Manukian told reporters.
Manukian did not conceal today that he has held meetings with former government officials, including Kocharian. “I have always had meetings and will always have meetings with everyone. When Kocharian was briefly released from custody we met and had a conversation, I meet with everyone. I will meet with Nikol Pashinian, too, if he wants to meet,” Manukian said.
In resigning from the Public Council Manukian did not admit that he had made political statements while holding the post. “It is only political when you are a member of either an opposition or governing party or you are struggling to maintain power or to come to power,” he explained.