Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has called for “popular assistance and moral support” to his embattled ally in the wake of a massive government crackdown on tycoon Gagik Tsarukian and his political party.
After several days of a tense standoff with President Serzh Sarkisian and his ruling Republican Party of Armenia, Tsarukian, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), on Wednesday bowed to apparent government pressure that included detentions of his loyalists and inspections of their businesses. In a statement released that day he publicly called for a “peaceful way” of settling disputes.
Before that Tsarukian, along with his two opposition allies, including Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), planned to hold a joint rally in Yerevan to demand Sarkisian’s resignation. The rally that was not sanctioned by the city authorities was eventually called off by the BHK and the HAK said it approached the decision of its ally with “understanding”.
In an article that was published on the ilur.am news website late on Thursday, Ter-Petrosian, who served as independent Armenia’s first president in 1991-1998, attributed Tsarukian’s “political mistakes” also to the activities of “a bunch of troublemakers inside the BHK”.
Ter-Petrosian argued that the example of another Armenian businessman, Khachatur Sukiasian, who experienced the same kind of government pressure for supporting him in the 2008 presidential campaign, was sufficient proof that Tsarukian had made a deliberate choice when he decided to take an opposition stance.
Among the mistakes made by Tsarukian the former president singled out his decisions not to go ahead with planned nonstop rallies in April and October last year, as well as choosing the wrong timing for beginning to form movement chapters and holding a conference of “non-governing” forces.
“Some of these mistakes reflect Tsarukian’s lack of political experience, but the greater part of them were made because of a small group of troublemakers inside the BHK that are guided from a different center and pursue a different program,” Ter-Petrosian claimed, without naming names.
The ex-president concludes his article entitled “My Heart’s Duty” by saying the following: “The Armenian National Congress and I have never forgotten the merit of any person or organization that have done even a little service to the nation and the state no matter how our relations with them turned out to be later on. So, I expect that “my heart’s duty” that I’ve expressed in this article will become “the duty of the hearts” of all healthy political forces and all honest citizens.”
In his latest article Ter-Petrosian made no reference to his “open letter” to President Sarkisian on a matter not concerning domestic politics that he first decided to withhold amid the change of the political situation in Armenia last week, but then decided to release it at the peak of the Sarkisian-Tsarukian standoff on February 17.
In that original article Ter-Petrosian was essentially offering a meeting to Sarkisian to discuss ways of elaborating the “pan-Armenian declaration” released ahead of the centennial of the Armenian genocide. But in his addition released along with the original text this week the first president of Armenia regretted that it was impossible to realize his idea “in conditions of the political revenge and fierce violence unleashed against Gagik Tsarukian, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the opposition in general.”
Levon Zurabian, the leader of the HAK parliamentary faction, argued in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Thursday that the letter was an attempt to put pressure on Sarkisian to end the crackdown against Tsarukian and his political team.