YEREVAN — After months of foot-dragging, businessman Gagik Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a key member of the ruling coalition, on Thursday formally committed themselves to helping President Serzh Sarkisian win a second term in office in 2013.
In a joint declaration signed with Sarkisian’s Republican Party and the third coalition partner, Orinats Yerkir, the BHK also appeared to give up its ambition to win next year’s parliamentary elections.
“At the presidential elections the Political Coalition will come up with one single nomination in the person of the current President, creating thus guarantees of further continuation of the changes and sustainable development of our country for the next five years,” reads the declaration signed by Sarkisian, Tsarukian and Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian at the presidential palace in Yerevan.
The signing ceremony came after more than one week of intensive negotiations between the HHK and the BHK. The latter has been under strong pressure to officially pledge support for Sarkisian in the next presidential election due in early 2013. Tsarukian’s party, which is believed to be unofficially backed by former President Robert Kocharian, has clearly been reluctant do so.
Speaking to journalists just hours before the signing ceremony, Tsarukian said he has decided to endorse Sarkisian’s reelection bid now because of “severe” internal and external challenges facing Armenia. He said the incumbent president needs to “feel his power and be firm” in coping with them. The tycoon refused to answer any questions.
The chief HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, dismissed media speculation that the fact that Sarkisian will not be mentioned in the coalition declaration is a concession to the BHK. “Everyone knows that the current president of the country is Serzh Sarkisian,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian.
In another far-reaching statement, the coalition leaders made clear that their parties “will not strive to increase their political weight through contesting against each other or changing correlation of forces within the Coalition” in the May 2012 parliamentary elections. The declaration also says they will have even more seats in Armenia’s next parliament.
Aram Safarian, a senior BHK member, refused to specify whether that means Tsarukian and his allies will no longer aim for a parliamentary majority. “Please, do not remind me of past things,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The declaration’s references to the 2012 polls were strongly condemned by the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “The ugliest thing in that declaration is an effective announcement of the falsification of the next parliamentary elections,” said Stepan Safarian, a Zharangutyun leader.
Safarian claimed that the government-controlled Central Election Commission was thus instructed to rig the vote “in a way that would correspond to the letter and spirit of the coalition declaration.”
For its part, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical and influential opposition force, said Sarkisian’s endorsement by the BHK dashed Kocharian’s perceived hopes to return to power in 2013.
“It’s all very simple,” Levon Zurabian, the top HAK coordinator, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Serzh Sarkisian today wields the power levers and he can impose any sanctions on Tsarukian and any other member of the BHK. They are simply saving their businesses and thinking about their security.”

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