The second most important party in Armenia’s governing coalition on Monday chose its deputy chairman to serve as one of the two deputy speakers of the National Assembly.
The governing board of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) nominated Samvel Balasanian for the vacant post one week after ordering its previous BHK-affiliated holder, Arevik Petrosian, to step down.
The party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian has avoided giving any clear reasons for the move. Nor did it explain its choice of the new vice-speaker.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Balasanian admitted that his presently close personal ties with Tsarukian played a key role in his appointment. “I have known Mr. Tsarukian for a long time,” he said. “We are old friends.”
“We are confident that Mr. Balasanian is a worthy candidate who will adequately perform his duties,” said Aram Safarian, the secretary of the BHK’s parliamentary faction,
Balasanian, who owns one of Armenia’s three main beer companies based in the northern city of Gyumri, joined the BHK six months ago and became its deputy chairman shortly afterwards. The 55-year-old businessman rose to prominence in the later 1990s as a leading member of Orinats Yerkir, another party represented in President Serzh Sarkisian’s coalition government. He led the party’s faction in the Armenian parliament from 2003-2007.
Balasanian quit Orinats Yerkir shortly after its leader, Artur Baghdasarian, fell out with former President Robert Kocharian and moved his party into opposition. Baghdasarian’s party returned to government following the February 2008 presidential election.