The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of Gagik Tsarukian on Thursday reaffirmed support for Vartan Oskanian, saying that law-enforcement authorities’ decision to place him under a criminal investigation may well be politically motivated.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior aide to Tsarukian, said the country’s second largest parliamentary force is “really concerned” about the criminal proceedings against its prominent member.
“Tsarukian is taking a strong interest in and is aware of details of the case,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We stand by our party comrade, and Prosperous Armenia, after clarifying some details, may come up with a more comprehensive evaluation soon.”
“We have no reason not to believe in Oskanian’s statements,” she said, referring to the former foreign minister’s strong denials of money laundering alleged by the National Security Service (NSS).
The NSS opened the criminal case on May 25, the day after Tsarukian announced that his party will pull out of President Serzh Sarkisian’s coalition government in view of the official results of the May 6 parliamentary elections. The announcement was widely construed as a setback for Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), the official election winner.
“There are very bizarre and unexpected coincidences that do not happen accidentally in a country like ours,” Zohrabian said. “Of course, there are certain concerns on that issue. Why [prosecute him] now that Oskanian has started getting actively engaged in political processes?”
Oskanian joined the BHK in February and has stepped up his criticism of the Armenian government since then. The criticism has provoked angry reactions from some HHK figures. The Armenian authorities insist that this fact has nothing to do with the NSS investigation.
It remains to be seen whether the controversial case will affect the BHK’s stance in the upcoming parliamentary debates on the policy program of a new government currently being formed by Sarkisian.
Zohrabian indicated that BHK deputies, including Oskanian, may well vote against it even though their party has not officially declared itself an opposition force. She noted that the outgoing government, in which the BHK has been represented by four ministers, “has not succeeded” and that its composition will not undergo significant changes despite that.