A Moscow-based Armenian businessman has reaffirmed his determination to pursue a political career in Armenia despite criticism within media and opposition circles regarding his decision.
Ara Abrahamian first revealed his ambitions in Yerevan last week when the Union of Armenians of Russia marked the 15th anniversary of its establishment.
His statement about plans to set up a political party ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections in Armenia sparked a barrage of criticism in media that challenged his intellectual abilities to engage in politics and called him another pro-government “project” whose aim will be “stealing” the opposition votes in the next general elections.
Some opposition members also consider Abrahamian’s possible entry into Armenian politics as another way for Russia to increase the number of its loyalists in the next Armenian parliament.
While Abrahamian himself has denied he will seek a change of government in Armenia, some observers still believe his figure and political team will be counterbalancing the majority that President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia expects to retain after the planned constitutional reform turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic.
“Today it is time to return to Armenia,” the 58-year-old tycoon, who has been engaged in business activities in Russia since the 1990s, said in an interview with an RFE/RL’s Armenian Service correspondent in Moscow.
“Armenia has always been on my mind. I have no problems here [in Moscow]. I’ve achieved great successes and my financial situation is good. But I know that there are problems in Armenia. And it does not let me be at peace with my conscience,” Abrahamian said. “We have concrete economic programs, and I am right now working on them.”
Abrahamian, who owns several businesses in Russia and has made a fortune on investments, construction and other services, defies comparisons with Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Russian-Georgian billionaire who set up a political party that came to power in Georgia in 2012.
Abrahamian, who continues to hold Armenian citizenship, under Armenia’s Constitution cannot hold major elected posts because he does not meet the residence qualification. But he said he was still determined to play a role in Armenian politics.
“I cannot occupy any post under the new Constitution. I want to set up a movement, a party in order to gather likeminded people, a team around me,” he said.
“I don’t want to be compared with others. No force can make me [abandon my intention]. I am not doing anything wrong to be afraid of. It is the people who talk too much today that should be afraid. I think time will come and everyone will get their answers,” Abrahamian said, without naming names.
Some observers in Armenia believe if he engages in politics, Abrahamian will occupy the niche left by Gagik Tsarukian, a local affluent businessman who was effectively ousted from politics last February after he revealed presidential ambitions and challenged President Sarkisian’s plans to change the Constitution.
Amid the crackdown against Tsarukian members of Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party also spoke about the businessman’s “low intellectual capacity” and challenged his credentials as a political leader.
Abrahamian, who was born and raised in a central Armenian village, also responded to media criticism regarding his intellectual capacity.
“They say I don’t speak a good Russian or Armenian and that whatever I say is not true… Those who stand behind these media are up in arms against me because they know they may be losing their positions,” he concluded.