By Ruzanna Khachatrian
All nine politicians seeking to stand in Armenia’s forthcoming presidential election have released their mandatory income and asset declarations, with Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian claiming to own no real property in the republic, it emerged on Wednesday.
According to income declarations obtained by RFE/RL from the Central Election Commission (CEC), Sarkisian stated that he only co-owns an apartment in his native town of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital.
He also told the CEC that he only has 58 million drams ($191,000) in bank savings, about 40 paintings and an unspecified number of antiques. He did not estimate the monetary value of those items, saying only that some of them date back to the 18th century.
Sarkisian, who has lived in a state-owned residence ever since moving to Yerevan from Stepanakert in 1993, is believed to wield huge influence on economic affairs, maintaining close ties with some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen. Political opponents have long alleged that the prime minister has amassed a huge fortune while in office, a charge he denies.
Also claiming to have no real property is former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, who leads one of the two opposition parties represented in the National Assembly. Baghdasarian lives in an expensive apartment in downtown Yerevan and reportedly has business interests. He said in his income statement that he only has some $215,000 worth of cash on his bank accounts.
Another leading opposition candidate, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, declared ownership of a three-story house in Yerevan and some 10,000 square meters of adjacent land that was granted to him by the government after he lost power in 1998. Ter-Petrosian also told the CEC that he co-owns office space in two separate locations in the city center and has no personal bank savings.
Ter-Petrosian’s mansion is much bigger than even the home of Tigran Karapetian, a controversial millionaire businessman and TV commentator. Karapetian, who speaks on his own ALM TV station on a virtually daily basis, said he also owns five cars and 2,300 square meters of business property.
Karapetian’s declared home is smaller than a three-story apartment owned by Vazgen Manukian of the opposition National Democratic Union party. Manukian also owns two Russian-made cars.
Another major candidate, Vahan Hovannisian of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation, declared the largest amount of money on his bank accounts equivalent to roughly $250,000. He also claimed to own two apartments in central Yerevan and a plot of land in a village outside the capital.
Under the Armenian Election Code, individuals seeking registration as presidential candidates also have to deposit an equivalent of $20,000 with the CEC. The electoral authority has until January 20 to process applications from the nine contenders and decide whether to put their names on the ballot.