Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian decided not to run for president in order to avert another violent post-election unrest in the country, one of his top allies said on Thursday.
“Analyzing and probably discussing possible election and post-election scenarios, Mr. Tsarukian avoided the possibility of causing tension and clashes within the society,” Gurgen Arsenian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Arsenian, who is a wealthy businessman elected to parliament on the BHK ticket, said that Tsarukian’s participation in the February 18 presidential election would have resulted in unrest because its official results would have definitely caused bitter controversy. He argued that previous Armenian presidential elections were followed by violence.
“Such a development would have been possible,” said Arsenian. “We don’t exclude that because we have already witnessed such developments during our political history. And given a certain likelihood of such a scenario, Mr. Tsarukian opted for preventing it.”
Tsarukian, who is widely regarded as President Serzh Sarkisian’s most popular potential challenger, looked set to join the presidential race after pulling his party out of Armenia’s governing coalition in June. However, he unexpectedly announced last month that he will not nominate his presidential candidacy after all. The BHK went on to decide not to back any other candidate.
The decision was announced just days after Tsarukian’s confidential December 8 meeting with Sarkisian. This fact fuelled speculation that the BHK leader was pressurized into dropping out of the contest.
“There was no pressure,” insisted Arsenian. “There was a process of preparing for political struggle.”
Arsenian also downplayed the fact that some senior BHK figures, notably Gyumri’s Mayor Samvel Balasanian, have endorsed Sarkisian’s reelection bid. He said they are acting in a personal capacity and do not reflect the official party line.