YEREVAN – Armenia’s second president, Robert Kocharyan, took a further step towards formalizing his participation in upcoming snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, May 9.
At a press briefing for his newly-established electoral alliance, dubbed the Armenia Bloc, the former president told reporters that he decided to return to politics to rectify what he believes are great threats to the country’s long-term security and stability allegedly caused by the current authorities. Kocharyan accuses Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government of failing to provide security in border regions, signing the November 9 cease-fire on unfavourable terms, and mismanaging the economy.
“Our goal is to establish a dignified peace,” Kocharyan said, adding that the current government is too tarnished by the shame of defeat to accomplish this.
This sentiment was shared by the leaders of the Armenia Bloc’s two other parties. “This current government has done nothing but cause division in our society for three years, culminating in thousands of deaths and defeat,” said Ishkhan Saghatelyan, who heads the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Kocharyan’s main coalition partner. Saghatelyan, who until recently, vehemently opposed the prospects of a snap election, will be second on the new bloc’s electoral list. Vahe Hakobyan, the leader of the second coalition partner Revived Armenia, will also be in the top 5.
Following the press junket, Kocharyan and his entourage made their way on foot to a pre-election rally, accompanied by a police security detail, where they were greeted by supporters. According to an estimate by the civil rights watchdog Union of Informed Citizens, this inaugural event drew a crowd of approximately 7900, some waving the flags of Armenia, Artsakh and the ARF. Addressing his supporters at Freedom Square – incidentally the site of a bloody crackdown which the then-president allegedly ordered on the opposition on March 1, 2008 – Kocharyan declared, “Let me assure you that tomorrow everything will get better.”
Kocharyan, who still faces charges of bribery, has joined two other former presidents, Levon Ter-Petrossian and Serzh Sargsyan, in blaming Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for a disastrous outcome to the almost 30-year-old frozen conflict. Kocharyan has hoped to capitalize on a wave of discontent with authorities following last year’s defeat against Azerbaijan to revive his political ambitions. The former president seeks to present himself as a wise, even-handed but firm leader coming out of retirement to steer Armenia through difficult times, in contrast to the incumbent prime minister.