Disagreements over who should run Armenia’s moribund Volleyball Federation have triggered a bitter war of words between Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian and Artur Baghdasarian of the Orinats Yerkir party represented in the government.
The row is threatening to reignite Tsarukian’s tensions with President Serzh Sarkisian that substantially eased earlier this year.
The two former partners in the country’s governing coalition reportedly traded insults earlier this month after Baghdasarian was elected as federation chairman without the approval of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) headed by Tsarukian.
Orinats Yerkir representatives say Baghdasarian, who is the secretary of the presidential National Security Council, decided to take over the federation because his Russian opposite number, Nikolay Patrushev, heads a similar association existing in Russia where volleyball has traditionally been much more developed and popular than in Armenia. They say the two men had agreed to jointly promote the sport in the South Caucasus country.
The NOC has declared Baghdasarian’s election null and void, however, alleging serious procedural violations. Tsarukian’s BHK aides have added their voice to these claims.
Neither side has confirmed media reports that Baghdasarian and Tsarukian insulted and even swore at each other in the presence of other senior officials as they were about to greet President Serzh Sarkisian at Yerevan airport recently.
The Armenian Justice Ministry sided with the Orinats Yerkir leader in the row late last week, saying that his election followed all legal procedures. The ministry also said that Volleyball Federation is not subordinate to the NOC by law.
However, Hrachya Rostomian, the NOC’s secretary general, announced on Monday that the Tsarukian-led committee will ask the Lausanne-based International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to suspend its Armenian affiliate. He said the gathering that elected Baghdasarian took place at a National Security Council building behind the closed and that its outcome was strongly influenced by the Armenian government in breach of FIVB rules.
The row comes less than one year after Tsarukian, who is one of Armenia’s richest men, unexpectedly decided not to challenge Sarkisian in the February 2013 presidential election. The tycoon pulled his party out of the ruling coalition in May 2012 in what was widely seen as a prelude to his presidential bid. He declared shortly after the presidential ballot that the BHK, which boasts the second largest parliamentary faction, is not in opposition to the government.