Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian attended a session of parliament for the first time since last May’s legislative elections but again avoided contact with the media on Monday.
Tsarukian spent only 18 minutes on the parliament floor, taking part in several votes. He left the chamber through a back corridor reserved for the speaker of the National Assembly, ensuring that he cannot be approached by journalists.
The BHK leader has given virtually no interviews to media outlets not controlled by him since deciding to pull his party out of Armenia’s governing coalition in the wake of the May 2012 elections. The pullout was widely seen as a prelude to his participation in the February 2013 presidential election.
Tsarukian, who leads the second largest parliamentary faction, announced in December, however, that he will not challenge President Serzh Sarkisian in the vote. He never publicly explained the unexpected move.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, denied that Tsarukian again refused to talk to reporters in order to continue avoiding such an explanation. “Just like everyone else, Mr. Tsarukian himself decides whether or not to answer questions from the media,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
During his short appearance in the National Assembly, Tsarukian was accompanied by Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of President Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Relations between the HHK and the BHK steadily deteriorated in 2012 because of Tsarukian’s reluctance to back the incumbent president’s reelection bid. Tensions between the two parties seem to have eased significantly after the BHK decided not to field or endorse a presidential candidate.
Some senior BHK figures are now openly campaigning for Sarkisian’s reelection. The BHK leadership has dismissed media speculation that Tsarukian and his political team are covertly supporting the president.