Sunday, June 19, 2005

Serzh Sarkisyan for President

The Armenian News Network-Groong has posted what it calls an "unattributed report by the Armenian newspaper Iravunk." The article suggests, as many people have speculated, that the Defense Minister, Serzh Sarkisyan, might well have his sights on the presidency. Interestingly, according to the head of one major international organization, the former Armenian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Armen Sarkisyan (no relation), is already actively campaigning on his behalf in western circles. However, there has been no other reports of this and certainly, no confirmation.
According to a source close to Armenian Defence Minister Serzh Sarkisyan, he is going to form a new party on the basis of the People's Deputy parliamentary faction with the aim of using the party as a means of political support.

The source said that in doing so, Sarkisyan intends to secure massive representation in the parliament during the parliamentary elections of 2007. He hopes that the party will win a great number of seats in first-past-the-post constituencies and become the biggest faction in the National Assembly. In turn, the faction will back Sarkisyan's candidacy in the presidential elections of 2008.
Interestingly, many analysts suspect that if the Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, doesn't try to wangle an unconstitutional third term in office, his most obvious choice for successor is Sarkisyan -- sorry, please forget the idea that elections are decided by the popular vote (for now at least). After Artur Baghdasarian sat on the fence last year during the spring 2004 opposition protests, the powerful Defense Minister is perhaps the only man he can trust in Armenia today.

The same would be true for the oligarchs fearful of any anti-corruption drive that resulted in wave after wave of arrests in neighboring Georgia after the November 2003 "Rose Revolution."

The one uncertainty, of course, is how the population would take such an eventuality. Assuming that the next elections are going to be falsified, the general consensus is that most people would not stand for Sarkisyan as President. Indeed, if this scenerio looks more and more likely, one guesses that first, the Council of Europe and the US must really insist on democratic elections in Armenia and secondly, that such news is more likely to mobilize the opposition and strengthen their standing in the eyes of the people.

Personally, I think that the West can't allow the next elections to be anything other than democratic but we'll get a clearer idea of that when we see what happens in the November Parliamentary Elections in neighboring Azerbaijan.

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