The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Wednesday called on its founder, businessman Gagik Tsarukian, to return to active politics and again lead the county’s second largest parliamentary force.
“There is a need for Gagik Tsarukian’s return to politics,” the BHK’s current chairperson, Naira Zohrabian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“That is the desire and demand of not only my fellow party members and BHK chapters but also -- as you probably saw at our [local election campaign] meetings in Gyumri, and Vanadzor -- the public’s demand,” she said. “And I think that this public demand must be reckoned with.”
Tsarukian founded the BHK a decade ago after becoming one of Armenia’s richest men during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule. The party finished second in the two parliamentary elections held since then.
The BHK was a junior partner in President Serzh Sarkisian’s coalition government formed in 2008. It pulled out of the coalition in 2012 amid Tsarukian’s growing disagreements with Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party (HHK).
The discord came to a head in early 2015 as Tsarukian attempted to scuttle Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform with the help of Armenia’s established opposition parties. The president harshly criticized the influential tycoon and threatened to prosecute him for alleged tax evasion.
Tsarukian responded by calling for Sarkisian’s ouster but eventually caved in, resigning as BHK leader and quitting politics altogether. The two men subsequently made peace, repeatedly making joint public appearances.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and businessman Gagik Tsarukian make a joint public appearance, Yerevan, 11Sep2015.
Zohrabian said that she “periodically” meets Tsarukian and discusses political issues with him. “We cannot fail to discuss them because Tsarukian is someone who is concerned with the state of the country, and as you can see, the Tsarukian Foundation continues to invest in sports, culture, science and the Diaspora,” she explained.
According to the BHK chairwoman, all party chapters now want their former leader to stage a political comeback ahead of parliamentary elections due in April. “As party chairperson, I obviously cannot ignore … the demand of our chapters,” she said.
Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, Iveta Tonoyan, would not say whether the tycoon is ready for a comeback. “I have heard no statements by Gagik Tsarukian on his desire to return to politics and therefore cannot say anything new on that,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“If Gagik Tsarukian finds it necessary to address this issue he will do that personally, rather than through other persons,” added Tonoyan.