By Karine Kalantarian and Emil Danielyan
Ara Abrahamian, a millionaire businessman who runs the biggest Armenian advocacy group in Russia, signaled on Thursday his support for a Diaspora-linked political party that backs President Robert Kocharian and hopes to win seats in Armenia’s next parliament.
Abrahamian said the small Ramkavar Azatakan party (HRAK) is a “reliable” political force which is assisting in his efforts to set up a new organization representing Armenian communities throughout the world. He said he and the HRAK will jointly invest $50 million in the Armenian economy this year, in a remark apparently designed to boost the party’s chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The HRAK, which is sponsored by an eponymous group that has long existed in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, hopes to clear the 5 percent vote barrier needed for securing parliament seats under the system of proportional representation. Abrahamian’s Yerevan-based brother Gagik is on its electoral slate.
The party fared poorly in the previous 1999 legislative polls and is therefore not represented in the outgoing National Assembly. Like Abrahamian’s Union of Armenians of Russia, it strongly supports Kocharian and is highly critical of his political opponents who refuse to recognize his controversial reelection in this month’s presidential election.
Abrahamian, who has extensive interests in the Russian diamond industry, criticized the opposition for continuing to hold anti-government rallies and challenge Kocharian’s legitimacy. “Of course the elections were not ideal, but they are acceptable for a newly independent state,” he told a news conference in Yerevan.
The Russian-Armenian tycoon declined to elaborate on his far-reaching investment pledge. He instead focused on his ambitious plan to set up a “global Armenian organization” which he said will support Armenia and promote international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. He said the organization will comprise a big commercial structure 20 percent of whose business revenues will channeled into the promotion of “Armenian issues.”
Abrahamian has already toured Armenian communities in Europe, North America and the Middle East to discuss the idea with their leaders. It is not yet clear whether it is backed by the Diaspora’s most influential political group, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Although Dashnaktsutyun too is closely allied with Kocharian, it has historically been at odds with the Ramkavars.
Significantly, Abrahamian’s trips have been extensively covered by Russia’s state-run Itar-Tass news agency -- a fact that underscores his reportedly close connections with the Kremlin. The tycoon announced on Thursday that the founding congress of his new organization will take place in Moscow in October.