YEREVAN (RFE/RL)-President Robert Kocharian will not become Armenia’s next prime minister after completing his second and final term in office early next month, Prime Minister and President-elect Serzh Sarkisian said late Thursday.
Kocharian’s political future has for months been the subject of speculation, with most local observers expecting him to retain a key role in government affairs after resigning as head of state.
Sarkisian ruled out the possibility of Kocharian becoming the next prime minister during a more than two-hour live interview where he answered questions from Armenia’s on national television.
"If such a scenario had been possible, we would have announced this before the election the way Russian President Vladimir Putin and [President-elect] Dmitry Medvedev did," he said.
Sarkisian again asserted that he has still not decided whom to name prime minister after being sworn in as Armenia’s president on April 9.
Meeting with university students in Yerevan earlier this week, the outgoing premier said his new cabinet will be radically different from the existing one. It is expected to comprise representatives of Sarkisian’s Republican Party, the pro-Kocharian Prosperous Armenia Party, and the Orinats Yerkir Party of former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian.
In his televised remarks, Sarkisian indicated that he is ready to engage in dialogue with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, only if the latter recognizes his election victory.
"If Levon Ter-Petrosian continues to claim that he was elected president with 65 percent of the vote, reject the decision of the Constitutional Court and call me a bandit and Mongol-Tatar, what kind of a dialogue can we have?" he said.
Sarkisian also claimed a measure of responsibility for the clashes between police and protestors that broke out in Yerevan on March 1.
"I also feel responsibility for what happened on March 1, since we did not manage to prevent [violence]," he said. "If we didn’t prevent it then we too share in the guilt."
But today the country must work together to overcome the tragedy and move forward, he said.
According to him, the authorities did everything possible to avoid clashes on March 1. He claimed that security forces never intended to disperse the protestors camped in the city’s Liberty Square and only wanted to search for weapons allegedly hoarded there. He said they used force only after meeting fierce resistance from the protesters.
The break-up of the Liberty Square sit-in led tens of thousands of opposition supporters to re-assemble and barricade themselves in another location in the city center later on March 1. At least seven of them were killed in ensued clashes with riot police.