Businessman Gagik Tsarukian and his close associates affiliated with his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) are too wealthy to be in opposition to the government, a well-known BHK member said on Monday.
Vartan Bostanjian, a former parliament deputy, claimed that they will risk losing their assets if they seriously challenge President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Capital never defies authorities because it is moving along the same vector,” he told reporters. “Within Prosperous Armenia there are people who have amassed some fortunes and those fortunes won’t allow them to opt for confrontations with the authorities.”
The BHK, which is widely linked with former President Robert Kocharian, was a member of Armenia’s governing coalition until last month. It pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition government shortly after parliamentary elections in which it finished second.
Together with two leading opposition groups, the BHK challenged the legitimacy of the May 6 vote that gave a landslide victory to Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Still, Tsarukian and his aides have pointedly declined to declare the BHK as an opposition force, saying instead that it will act as an “alternative” to the current government.
Bostanjian, who was mysteriously left out of the BHK’s list of election candidates, scoffed at the ambiguous term. “There is no such thing in the world,” he said. “Maybe I’m too narrow-minded but I can’t understand that.”
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), insists that the BHK is in opposition to the Sarkisian administration and intends to increasingly cooperate with it. But other opposition groups, notably the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, suspect Tsarukian’s party of retaining ties with the government.
The BHK underlined its equivocal status last week when it failed to back an opposition demand for a parliamentary inquiry into a deadly assault that took place last month at a Yerevan restaurant belonging to a government-linked businessman. The party initially claimed that most of its 37 deputies are not in Armenia and therefore physically unable to demand an urgent session of the National Assembly.
But one of its senior lawmakers, Naira Zohrabian, gave another reason on Monday. “Even if all BHK deputies were in Armenia, we did not see the need for an extraordinary parliament session at this point,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HAK again avoided criticizing this stance. The bloc’s parliamentary leader, Levon Zurabian, blamed instead the ruling HHK for the failure of the opposition initiative.