Minister for Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Suren Papikian specifically denied any connection between the authorities’ apparent decision not to hold snap parliamentary elections in the coming months and Kocharian’s stated confidence in his electoral prospects.
Kocharian declared late last month that he and his political allies will contest and win snap parliamentary elections if they are held by the current authorities.
The 66-year-old ex-president reaffirmed his political ambitions in an interview with the Sputnik news agency published on Saturday. “If the elections are held they will most probably be bipolar,” he said, implying that a political force led by him will be Pashinian’s main challenger.
The ruling My Step bloc announced the following day that Pashinian and lawmakers allied to him see no need for snap elections despite the prime minister’s readiness to hold them expressed on December 25. It said that most Armenians do not want such a vote.
Papikian, who also heads the governing board of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, My Step’s dominant component, dismissed suggestions that the authorities fear being defeated by Kocharian.
“We are not afraid of any competition, and it is not clear to me with which or through which political force Robert Kocharian would participate in elections,” he said, answering questions from Facebook users at the RFE/RL studio in Yerevan.
Papikian stood by the ruling bloc’s claim that there is no popular “demand” for dissolving the current parliament and holding elections later this year, let alone replacing Pashinian.
“We have received no such feedback from the public,” said the minister. “On the contrary, we have only received [messages of] ‘do not resign.’”
“I don’t exclude that we have had shortcomings,” he went on. “It wouldn’t be normal if there were no people disappointed with us. “It’s a natural process. Some will start to believe, others may have some expectations which we do not manage to live up to.”
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.
The ex-president, who had ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, 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.