YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian has brushed aside the ruling Republican Party’s declared plans to stay in power for at least ten more years, saying that it will be voted out of office in the next national elections.
Addressing parliament deputies and senior members of the BHK late on Monday, Tsarukian hit back at a stark warning that was issued by the Republican Party (HHK) last week.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov made clear on April 30 that the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian will not cede power to any other individual or political force in the next decade. “If anybody wants to become president or prime minister of Armenia, they will have to go through [the HHK headquarters located on Yerevan’s] Melik-Adamian Street,” Sharmazanov said.
“In any election, whether it’s presidential or parliamentary, the decisive factor is the people,” Tsarukian told his loyalists. “And you now know the views of the people … and the fact that they are ready to rise up, take care of their votes and change the situation.”
“So I can state that victory in the elections, whether they are presidential or parliamentary, will bypass Melik-Adamian Street this time around,” he said.
Tsarukian, who controls the second largest faction in Armenia’s parliament, went on to indicate his belief that the ruling HHK will be driven out of power by the BHK. “People unequivocally trust in us and our party,” he claimed.
The HHK message appeared to have been primarily addressed to former President Robert Kocharian, who has close ties to Tsarukian and is widely believed to be plotting a political comeback. Kocharian last month criticized President Sarkisian’s controversial plans to amend the Armenian constitution. The ex-president echoed opposition claims that the purpose of the constitutional reform is to help Sarkisian become a powerful prime minister after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
Stepan Safarian, a senior member of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, agreed that Tsarukian’s and Sharmazanov’s statements are part of Sarkisian’s intensifying power struggle with his predecessor. “Clearly they are both positioning themselves for [the parliamentary and presidential elections of] 2017 and 2018,” he said. “The constitutional changes, which are proposed by the HHK and apparently seek to block the return to power of the former presidents, have met with quite serious resistance.”
Tsarukian on Monday also reaffirmed his strong criticism of the Sarkisian administration’s economic policies. But he did not say whether he and the 35 other members of the 131-seat National Assembly representing the BHK will back a parliamentary vote of confidence in a new cabinet formed by Sarkisian.
Tsarukian has a close personal rapport with Armenia’s new Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. Besides, several newly appointed ministers in Abrahamian’s cabinet held senior government positions during Kocharian’s 1998-2008 presidency.
Abrahamian reacted to Tsarukian’s statement on Tuesday, saying that the BHK leader probably misunderstood Sharmazanov’s televised remarks. He told Panorama.am that the ruling party spokesman did not issue warnings to “any other party, especially the BHK.” “I think that we will have a chance to talk about this at length,” added the premier.