In what may have been another sign of their rift with President Serzh Sarkisian, former President Robert Kocharian and Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian have again failed to attend an annual government reception.
Sarkisian organized and spoke at the reception on Friday evening to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the country’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. It was attended by hundreds of politicians, government officials, businesspeople, foreign diplomats and other dignitaries.
A spokesman for Kocharian, Victor Soghomonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Saturday that the ex-president was not in attendance because he had gone to Moscow to take part in a meeting of the governing board of AFK Sistema, a Russian telecommunication giant.
Kocharian joined the Sistema board as an “independent director” in June 2009, more than a year after handing over power to Sarkisian, his longtime political ally.
BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian, for his part, said Tsarukian did not attend the reception due to other, “extremely important, extremely urgent and extremely unexpected” engagements. Urikhanian did not elaborate.
Tsarukian was likewise conspicuously absent from the last two sessions of Sarkisian’s National Security Council. The tycoon remained a council member even after his party quit Armenia’s governing coalition following the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Relations between the BHK and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) deteriorated in the months leading up to the vote. Observers attributed this to Tsarukian’s reluctance to pledge support for the incumbent president’s reelection plans and Kocharian’s alleged desire to return to active politics.
The Independence Day reception was predictably boycotted by Levon Ter-Petrosian, another former president who leads the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance. But senior representatives of two other major opposition groups, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, were present at the event.