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Major Party Still Hopeful About Tsarukian Comeback


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) attends the inauguration of a new fitness center in Yerevan owned by businessman Gagik Tsarukian (R), 31Oct2016.

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) attends the inauguration of a new fitness center in Yerevan owned by businessman Gagik Tsarukian (R), 31Oct2016.

The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) still hopes that its founder, businessman Gagik Tsarukian, will return to active politics ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, a senior BHK lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Mikael Melkumian said the BHK’s governing body may call on Tsarukian to again lead Armenia second largest parliamentary force when it meets in Yerevan on December 3.

“I don’t exclude that this issue will also be raised,” Melkumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Why shouldn’t it be raised and discussed?”

“We all believe that with Gagik Tsarukian Prosperous Armenia would be much stronger and competitive. After all, he is our founder and is someone who has made a great contribution to this country,” he said.

Tsarukian founded the BHK a decade ago after becoming one of Armenia’s richest men during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule. The party 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.

Last month, the BHK’s current chairwoman, Naira Zohrabian, and other senior party figures publicly urged the tycoon to stage a political comeback. Tsarukian, who will turn 60 on Friday, did not rule out such a possibility later in October. He declined to clarify whether he would again challenge the government in case of his return.

The BHK, which boasts the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, claims to be in opposition to the Sarkisian administration. Some local commentators question its opposition credentials, however.

Melkumian would not say whether the party is ready to cut a power-sharing deal with Sarkisian and the ruling HHK as a result of the elections due in April. “Let’s not talk in hypothetical terms,” he said.

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