“We have a full toolkit and a team necessary for political struggle,” he said in a televised interview publicized late on Wednesday.
Kocharian indicated that he continues to believe that such elections must take place after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation and a certain “time lag.”
“But if the authorities manage to force the elections sooner -- and they seem to have enough votes in the parliament -- I don’t think that not participating [in them] will be right. I think that participating will be right. Or else, we will enable these people [in power] to reestablish their rule,” he told three media outlets.
Pashinian expressed readiness late last month to hold fresh parliamentary elections after weeks of street protests staged by a coalition of 17 opposition parties blaming him for Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war with Azerbaijan. They want him to resign and hand over power to an interim government that would organize the polls within a year.
The opposition alliance called the Homeland Salvation Front has rejected Pashinian’s offer until now, saying that the country is not prepared for the vote now and that the authorities would rig it. Some of its leaders have already called for an election boycott.
Kocharian, who has backed the anti-government protests, said he shares the opposition concerns. “But if these people [in power] do not understand that holding elections in these conditions would be dangerous for the country and take that step after all, I don’t think leaving them alone with the public in the elections will be right. That is why we will participate [in the elections] and win.”
The 66-year-old ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, shed no light on the likely composition of his electoral “team.” Nor did he say if he will top its list of election candidates and aspire to the post of prime minister.
Kocharian has been at loggerheads with Pashinian’s government ever since it took office following the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018. He was arrested in July 2018 on coup charges rejected by him as politically motivated.
Kocharian was released on bail in June 2020 pending the outcome of his ongoing trial. The trial resumed on January 19 nearly four months after being effectively interrupted by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government lawmaker and Pashinian’s brother-in-law, scoffed at Kocharian’s political ambitions on Thursday, saying that the ex-president stands no chance of winning the elections. “Our people have already seen ten years of Kocharian’s rule, the political and other murders committed during Kocharian’s rule,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Hakobian said Pashinian’s My Step bloc can win the polls despite the outcome of the war. “Whatever government was in power, this war would have taken place and we would have lost it,” he claimed, laying the blame on the country’s former rulers.
In his latest interview, Kocharian again harshly criticized Pashinian’s handling of the six-week hostilities that left at least 3,500 Armenian soldiers dead. He also accused Pashinian of severely jeopardizing Armenia’s national security and effectively turning the country into a Russian “protectorate.”