A millionaire businessman linked with Armenia’s largest opposition force formally joined the unfolding parliamentary race on Monday more than two years after resigning from the current National Assembly while being prosecuted on controversial charges.
Khachatur Sukiasian filed for registration as a candidate for the May 6 parliamentary elections. He will seek to regain his parliament seat in a central Yerevan constituency which he had represented for many years.
Sukiasian’s representatives submitted relevant documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) on the first day of the registration process.
It was not immediately clear if Sukiasian’s candidacy is officially backed by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), an opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The tycoon strongly backed Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election. He was among several Ter-Petrosian associates who fled the country to escape arrest following deadly post-election clashes between security forces and opposition protesters demanding a rerun of what they believe was a rigged ballot.
Like many other opposition figures, Sukiasian was charged with organizing the “mass riots.” He returned to Armenia and surrendered to the police in September 2009 only to be set free three days later. He resigned as parliament deputy before being allowed to again leave the country shortly afterwards.
Citing a lack of evidence, law-enforcement authorities investigating the unrest dropped the charges against Sukiasian in February 2011. He has continued to keep a low profile since then.
Sukiasian got in trouble with the Armenian authorities in late 2007 shortly after publicly voicing support for Ter-Petrosian’s bid to return to power. Several companies making up his SIL Concern group were raided by tax officials and accused of large-scale tax fraud at the time.
One of them, a mineral water plant, was confiscated by the state after refusing to pay almost 5.2 billion drams ($14.3 million) in tax fines. Sukiasian and his extended family rejected the tax evasion accusations as baseless and politically motivated.
Dozens of other wealthy entrepreneurs also hold seats in the outgoing parliament. Most of them are members or supporters of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Many are expected to run for reelection in some of the 41 single-mandate Armenian constituencies.
The HHK has said that none of the tycoons will be included this time around on its list of candidates for the 90 other parliament seats to be distributed under the system of proportional representation.