The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) formerly led by Gagik Tsarukian said on Thursday that it remains in opposition to the government after being allowed to lease new state-owned offices at a discounted price.
The BHK’s previous national headquarters in Yerevan was located at the premises of a brandy distillery owned by Tsarukian. The party had to leave them after the tycoon resigned as its founding chairman under government pressure in March.
The government on Thursday formally agreed to provide almost 650 square meters of office space for its new headquarters. The BHK will pay the government a monthly rent of just 125,000 drams ($260), a fraction of the market value of the property situated in a prime city center location.
BHK leaders downplayed the lavish discount, saying that it will not affect their political orientation.One of them, Mikael Melkumian, also argued that the new head office needs to undergo expensive remodeling that will be financed by the party.
The BHK, which controls the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, declared itself an opposition force immediately after Tsarukian’s exit. However, it effectively stopped cooperating with two other major opposition parties, Zharangutyun (Heritage) and the Armenian National Congress (HAK), in challenging President Serzh Sarkisian. Observers now doubt that the BHK will ever pose a real threat to Sarkisian.
By contrast, the government has never helped Zharangutyun and the HAK with office space.
Citing a lack of funds, Zharangutyun last year had to vacate a 4-room apartment in downtown Yerevan that had long housed its head office. According to its deputy chairman, Armen Martirosian, annual lease of the relative small property cost well above $10,000.
For its part, the HAK has to use the offices of its top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, as its headquarters. Ter-Petrosian is legally entitled to them in his capacity as former head of state.