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Tsarukian Still Mum On Presidential Vote


Armenia - Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian (R) at the opening of a Russian-Armenian trade exhibition in Yerevan, 24Oct2012.

Armenia - Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian (R) at the opening of a Russian-Armenian trade exhibition in Yerevan, 24Oct2012.

Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian on Wednesday again pointedly declined to clarify whom he and his influential political force will be supporting in the upcoming presidential election.

“Mr. Tsarukian will answer all questions at the right time,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) at the opening of a Russian-Armenian trade exhibition in Yerevan. The tycoon, whose Multi Group co-organized the exhibition together with a Russian firm, refused to comment further.

Tsarukian has kept politicians and observers guessing ever since effectively walking away, just over a year ago, from a 2011 agreement that committed the BHK to supporting President Serzh Sarkisian’s reelection. That led to his growing tensions with Sarkisian culminating in the BHK’s withdrawal from the governing coalition in June.

Chances of the BHK fielding its own candidate in the February 2013 presidential election appear to have increased after the Armenian authorities pressed controversial criminal charges against former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian earlier this month. The BHK, of which Oskanian is a senior member, has condemned the criminal case as “political persecution” of not only the ex-minister but also the entire party. Oskanian expressed readiness to run for president on the BHK ticket immediately after being formally charged with fraud on October 8.

The BHK is also being increasingly courted by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), one of the country’s leading opposition groups. Levon Zurabian, an HAK leader, said on Tuesday that the bloc is ready to join forces with the BHK for defeating Sarkisian in the presidential ballot. Zurabian claimed that both Tsarukian and his reputed political sponsor, former President Robert Kocharian, will risk losing their business assets if Sarkisian’s secures reelection.

Commenting on that claim, BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian said he is “glad that people have concerns and that those concerns can be related to the BHK.” Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service about the possibility of an electoral alliance with the HAK, Urikhanian said, “Nobody can tell yet what will happen, especially with regard to the BHK, because we are not talking about that yet.”

The HAK’s cooperation offer to Tsarukian was condemned by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in unusually strong terms. HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov called Zurabian’s remarks a “complete disgrace” that testifies to the HAK’s “imminent political demise.”
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