Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) remains part of the country’s political leadership despite pulling out of the ruling coalition in May, a prominent associate of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian said on Friday.
“It’s impossible to have a big fortune while not being part of the government,” Hrant Bagratian, a parliament deputy from Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), said, answering questions from Facebook users at an RFE/RL studio in Yerevan.
Bagratian, who served as Armenia’s president from 1993-1996, referred to Tsarukian’s extensive business interests.
The remarks contrasted with statements made by Ter-Petrosian in recent months. Addressing thousands of supporters in Yerevan last June, the HAK leader insisted that the BHK can be considered an opposition force because it is no longer represented in President Serzh Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet.
Tsarukian left the coalition following the May 6 parliamentary elections that were controversially won by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The BHK as well as the HAK and other major opposition groups questioned the legitimacy of the official election results.
Ter-Petrosian began reaching out to the BHK last fall amid signs of a deepening rift between Sarkisian and Tsarukian, which some observers attributed to former President Robert Kocharian’s perceived desire to return to active politics. Those overtures have been openly criticized by some opposition parties and individual politicians aligned in the HAK. Two of those parties pulled out of Ter-Petrosian’s bloc after the parliamentary elections.
The opposition critics say that cooperating with the BHK is tantamount to helping Kocharian. They have also repeatedly questioned Tsarukian’s opposition credentials, saying that the tycoon will eventually cut new deals with the government.
Ter-Petrosian denounced that criticism as “demagogy” on June 26. He said it is aimed at “pushing the BHK back into Serzh Sarkisian’s embrace.”