The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) will continue to seek early elections despite the conciliatory note struck by its leader Gagik Tsarukian in a statement earlier this week following his reported meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian, a spokesperson said on Thursday.
After several days of a dramatic row between Sarkisian and Tsarukian that included mutual accusations in emotionally charged language as well as pledges to “oust” each other from the political arena, the BHK leader appeared to have bowed to alleged government pressure that included detentions of his loyalists and inspections of their businesses.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (R) and businessman Gagik Tsarukian attend the consecration of a new church built by Tsarukian in Abovian, 14May2013.
President Sarkisian also ordered tax audits of the businesses owned by Tsarukian himself as well as a probe into his alleged criminal connections. The BHK leader was thrown out of the National Security Council and the National Assembly leadership began to consider kicking him out of the legislature as well.
Apparently enraged by Tsarukian’s “ultimatum” to give up the planned constitutional reform or face large-scale street protests, Sarkisian told his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on February 12 that the BHK leader was “evil” for Armenia and had to be excluded from the political process. In response, Tsarukian and two other opposition leaders agreed to hold a joint rally in Yerevan on February 20 to demand Sarkisian’s resignation.
On Wednesday, however, Tsarukian issued a statement signaling his readiness to settle all disputes through “peaceful, lawful and political means”. His party, meanwhile, called off the Friday rally that many observers had feared could potentially lead to bloodshed.
Neither Tsarukian nor Sarkisian have yet confirmed the unofficial reports about their meeting on Tuesday, but subsiding domestic political tensions appear to be a strong indication that such a meeting did take place.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Thursday, BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian ratcheted up the political temperature by reiterating calls for the resignation of the current government.
“Has the rate of outmigration from Armenia slowed down? Isn’t there poverty in Armenia anymore? Is there a fast growing economy? Is there not unemployment anymore?” Urikhanian said, stressing that all the social and economic woes that were the reason for the BHK to quit the governing coalition in 2012 are still there.
“It is obvious that we should continue to make our demands and that within the limits of our possibilities and sometimes even trying to do the impossible we should continue our struggle for changes in the country,” Urikhanian said.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK parliamentary faction, stressed that the BHK leader is still responsible for what members of his political team say.
“For that very reason I again urge them [BHK members] to agree their statements and speeches with their leader,” Baghdasarian said, implying that it may not be the position shared by Tsarukian.
The senior HHK member said that if such statements are actually agreed with Tsarukian, “then one should expect further developments.”
Meanwhile, BHK spokesman Urikhanian acknowledged the “change of the political situation” when asked whether the party is going to participate in rallies that its opposition allies may be holding later this month. “Indeed, there is a lot of rethinking to be done, there is a need to develop a plan of actions,” he said, declining to talk more specifically about the party’s immediate plans.