YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Former Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian unexpectedly announced on Tuesday that he has decided to leave President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) ahead of crucial parliamentary elections.
“Yes, I’ve made a decision. I’m leaving the HHK. I will issue a statement tomorrow,” Abrahamian said.
Abrahamian refused to give any reasons for the move or to clarify whether he plans to join another party.
The announcement came more than four months after he was sacked as prime minister in a government reshuffle which Sarkisian said will reinvigorate economic reforms in the country. Abrahamian has kept a low profile since then.
Abrahamian, who turned 59 on Tuesday, was one of the HHK’s most influential figures even before he was appoint prime minister in 2014. He has managed the ruling party’s presidential and parliamentary election campaigns since 2008.
The HHK’s governing body is due to meet on Thursday to name its campaign manager and draw up a list of its candidates for the parliamentary elections slated for April 2.
Ruben Tadevosian, a senior official at the HHK secretariat, said that Abrahamian’s decision to quit the party took him by surprise. Tadevosian said the former premier, who is also one of the party’s deputy chairpersons, has never openly disagreed with the party line.
“I can’t comment until we talk to Mr. Abrahamian,” added Tadevosian.
Abrahamian’s surprise decision follows the influential businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s decision to return to active politics almost two years after he was forced to resign as leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest force in the outgoing Armenian parliament. The two men have long had a warm personal relationship.
A spokesperson for Tsarukian pointedly declined to rule out the possibility of Abrahamian joining a new electoral alliance which is currently being formed by the tycoon. Let’s wait for official statements,” Iveta Tonoyan said.
Stepan Markarian, a senior representative of another opposition bloc taking shape now, said it has held no election-related talks with Abrahamian. “We respect him…But there have been no such discussions,” he said.
Markarian’s bloc will bring together at least four opposition parties. It is expected to be joined by Former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, a key member of Abrahamian’s cabinet who was also sacked last fall.