Gagik Tsarukian, an influential businessman leading Armenia’s second largest governing party, urged voters to more actively participate in the next national elections on Tuesday as he sought to drum up greater public support in the northwestern Shirak region.
In scenes reminiscent of election campaign trips, Tsarukian held a series of indoor meetings in the regional capital Gyumri with local members and supporters of his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). He insisted, however, that the BHK is not gearing up for pre-term parliamentary or presidential elections.
“All citizens, regardless of their party affiliation, … must participate in elections,” he declared at one of the gatherings. “Some say, ‘I’m not going to take part.’ So why do you live [in the first place?]” “Everyone must go to the polls,” he added.
The tycoon, who is believed to be close to former President Robert Kocharian, also blasted those Armenians who sell their votes. “With that, you can buy neither happiness, nor prosperity,” he said.
But Tsarukian, who himself has faced opposition allegations of vote buying, added: “Let them still take money, but vote or fight for the person who will get things done, who always turns his words into actions.”
Hundreds of local residents handed the millionaire businessman letters detailing their grievances and asking for material assistance. Some were handed cash on the spot.
Tsarukian toured Armenia’s second largest city in a motorcade of several dozen expensive cars carrying his loyalists. He used the occasion to announce the appointment of Samvel Balasanian, a Gyumri-based businessman and parliamentarian who recently joined the BHK, as a new deputy chairman of his party.
Speaking to journalists, Tsarukian insisted that the BHK does not anticipate fresh elections, championed by the Armenian opposition, and is only preparing for the next, regular, parliamentary polls due in May 2007. “The elections will be held on time. We are organizing and strengthening [the BHK ranks,]” he said.
Asked why the BHK is becoming politically active now, he replied: “You will see our activity in the end. We are not active yet.”
The BHK boasts the second largest faction in Armenia’s parliament and is represented in the national government by four ministers.
Tsarukian again denied persistent media reports of a rift between his party and Republican Party of Armenia, its senior coalition partner led by President Serzh Sarkisian. “Of course, we are coalition partners,” he said. “But depending on a program, there may be issues. But we have no disagreements.”