Businessman Gagik Tsarukian looks set to resume his political activities at the helm of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), one of the main contenders in parliamentary elections due in April.
The BHK’s governing board formally appealed to Tsarukian to again lead Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force after a meeting held in Yerevan on Saturday.
In a statement, the board cited the need for a “great public-political consolidation” which it said is essential for meeting challenges facing the country. It also claimed that Tsarukian’s return to active politics is a “demand and desire of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens.”
Some board members met with Tsarukian later on Saturday. One of them, Mikael Melkumian, said afterwards that the tycoon, who founded the BHK in 2006, is leaning towards a political comeback.
Armenia - Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian addresses an election campaign rally in Yerevan, 2May2013.
“He will make a statement about that in the coming days,” Melkumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “In my view, he will definitely take into consideration the people’s and the party’s demand.”
“Gagik Tsarukian will participate in forthcoming political processes,” the BHK’s current chairperson, Naira Zohrabian, said on Monday “In what format? That will become clear soon.”
“We proposed that Tsarukian again head the BHK, but Tsarukian himself with make a public statement and answer all questions,” added Zohrabian.
The BHK finished second in the last two Armenian parliamentary elections held in 2007 and 2012.
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 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) attends the inauguration of a new fitness center in Yerevan owned by businessman Gagik Tsarukian (R), 31Oct2016.
Zohrabian and other senior BHK figures began publicly calling for Tsarukian’s comeback two months ago. The 60-year-old tycoon did not rule out such a possibility when he spoke to reporters later in October.
The BHK claims to be in opposition to the Sarkisian administration. Some local commentators question its opposition credentials, however.
Zohrabian dismissed suggestions that the BHK founder’s comeback is part of a secret deal with Sarkisian aimed at “stealing” the votes of many disgruntled Armenians who consider Tsarukian an opposition figure. “The BHK has not changed and will not change its political orientation, she said. “Gagik Tsarukian is returning with for the purpose of effecting very serious changes in our country.”