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Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
28 July 2006 - ?KSAREN
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!ßõ  ="justify">There are 10 months till parliamentary elections and 20 months till presidential elections commence in Armenia. Yet, excitement in regards to these elections has already started to gain momentum. New political parties are being founded, heated speculations are being made as to the likely presidential candidates and discussions are being carried out as to what President Kocharian is to do following the elections.

This situation stems from the constitutional provision precluding President Kocharian from being re-elected. No one seems to believe that the strongest political figure of Armenia, aged only 52 years, is to retire. Reflections are being made as to how the most suitable office for Kocharian is the post of prime minister, granted that he can no longer be head of state. However, for this to materialize, he would need to become the leader or gain the support of a political party powerful enough to successfully win the parliamentary elections. It is not possible for Kocharian to chair a political party in the mean time as he is to remain president till the elections. Although Kocharian becoming prime minister alongside the present Prime Minister Markarian becoming the head of state appears to be the most ideal solution in theory, such an outcome appears unlikely as it is almost certain that Minister of Defense Sarkisian is to run for president.

Chaired by Armenia’s wealthiest individual Gagik Tsarukian (who appeared on the political scene as of the beginning of this year), the Affluent Armenia Party is arguably the biggest political party in Armenia with 210,000 members and 300 provincial branches throughout the country. Should this party, which supports President Kocharian, receive an overwhelming number of votes during the elections Kocharian may very well become prime minister.

Minister of Defense Serj Sarkisian who worked with Kocharian for many years and who is regarded by various circles as the most influential person in Armenia, entered Prime Minister Markarian’s party and was instantly designated as deputy chairman. Many people, following Sarkisian’s lead, have become members of this party. Should the Republicans attain the greatest number of votes in the forthcoming elections, it is likely that Markarian shall remain prime minister, and that the path will be cleared for Sarkisian to become president.

It is certain that there shall be more candidates, apart from Sarkisian, running for presidency. Despite having lost the position of speaker of parliament, due to the resignation of a number of deputies from his party, Artur Bagdasarian, is a potential presidential candidate as he remains to be the most popular political figure according to certain opinion polls. Furthermore, Stepan Demircian and Artashes Gegemian, who respectively received %28 and %17 of the votes in the 2003 elections, are still active politicians. As there remains time till the commencement of the elections, it is to be expected that further candidates are to emerge onto the political scene.

The Armenian press is still focusing on the likely presidential candidates and is not, for the time being, dealing with the policies that the president to be should follow.

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