Businessman Gagik Tsarukian ruled out the possibility of returning to active politics on Tuesday two months after effectively capitulating in a bitter standoff with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“I’ve turned the page of politics,” Tsarukian said in his first public remarks since his resignation as chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). He told reporters that he will now try to be “useful” to Armenia with entrepreneurial and benevolent activities and sponsorship of sports through the Armenian National Olympic Committee headed by him.
As recently as in early February, Tsarukian, his party and its opposition allies threatened to topple Sarkisian with a renewed campaign of street protests if the president went ahead with a controversial reform of the Armenian constitution. Sarkisian responded by harshly criticizing the tycoon and ordering tax audits of his numerous businesses and inquiries into other “crimes” possibly committed by the tycoon.
Tsarukian bowed to the pressure a few days later. Citing the need to prevent bloodshed in the country, he announced his resignation from the BHK leadership and politics in general on March 5. His exit led the BHK, which controls second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, to essentially stop challenging Sarkisian.
Tsarukian refused to give any clear reasons for his political retirement when approached by an RFE/RL corresponding during the inauguration of a new shopping mall owned by him. “Everyone knows that I did not pursue personal interests,” he said vaguely. “I wanted to be useful to the country, its development, and my people. But when journalists blow things out of proportion and write wrong things … that is why such things happen, young man.”
Pressed by the reporter, an annoyed Tsarukian replied, “Keep your question to yourself or ask someone else, your distinguished politicians, for example.”
The facility inaugurated by Tsarukian is located near Abovian, a small town just north of Yerevan where the BHK founder has held sway for almost two decades. It will have more than 500 small shops run by traders specializing in sales of imported clothes. They will pay no rent for the commercial space for the next three years.
“The economy is in crisis now and everyone must now display such an approach,” Tsarukian said in a speech at the opening ceremony. “People don’t want much. All they want is to be able to work, pay taxes and support their families.”