Orinats Yerkir party leader Artur Baghdasarian today said that he will not contest the Armenian presidential election in 2013, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Baghdasarian, who is also secretary of the presidential National Security Council, made the announcement one day after Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) unexpectedly ceded two of its three ministerial portfolios
to people who have had no formal connection with the party until now.
"I will not take part in the presidential elections but our team will participate in the parliamentary elections of 2012," Baghdasarian said at a news conference. "Why? Because...we entered into an alliance of strategic cooperation with President Serzh Sarkisian and we will do everything to implement our programs and move forward together," he said.
Baghdasarian was referring to the power-sharing agreement which he and the leaders of two other parties signed with Sarkisian in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election. Baghdasarian placed third with 16.7 percent of the vote.
His party has, until now, been represented in the Armenian government by three ministers. Two of them, Emergency Situations Minister Mher Shahgeldian and Transport and Communications Minister Gurgen Sarkisian (no relation to the president), were formally relieved of their duties on March 15, ostensibly at the request of the leadership of Orinats Yerkir.
Some local commentators believe the ministerial changes were initiated by Serzh Sarkisian and reflect a decline in the influence of a party which once boasted the second-largest faction in parliament. Orinats Yerkir representatives deny this.
New Transport Minister Manuk Vartanian previously worked as an adviser to President Sarkisian and as head of Armenia's State Cadastre Committee.
The other newly appointed minister, Armen Yeritsian, was previously a deputy chief of the national police. "Artur Baghdasarian is an old friend of mine," Yeritsian told RFE/RL. "There was an offer from my friend and I accepted it."
Yeritsian claimed to be familiar with Orinats Yerkir's platform. But he was unable, when asked, to name any of its provisions.