Former President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday praised through a spokesman Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian’s latest criticism of the Armenian government’s economic policies.
Zham.am quoted Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, as saying that Tsarukian made “numerous objective evaluations of the current situation in Armenia” when he addressed a BHK congress in Yerevan at the weekend.
In his speech, Tsarukian lambasted the government’s “fruitless” socioeconomic policies, saying that Armenians are increasingly losing hope for a better life. The tycoon also effectively backed Kocharian in his recent spat with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, which was widely construed as a thinly veiled attack on President Serzh Sarkisian.
The ex-president, who is regarded by some pundits as Tsarukian’s political patron, has repeatedly criticized the authorities in recent weeks for downplaying the significance of economic growth registered during his 1998-2008 presidency. The verbal attacks have rekindled speculation about his desire to return to politics with the BHK’s help.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) shrugged off Tsarukian’s criticism on Tuesday. “Frankly, we are a bit scared but not concerned,” Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK lawmaker, said jokingly.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Sahakian noted that the BHK leader remains reluctant to openly declare that his party is in opposition to the Sarkisian administration. “You have to be candid and honest: are you in opposition or not?” he said.
By contrast, Tsarukian’s speech was welcomed by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), an opposition party led by another former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian. The HAK’s deputy chairman, Levon Zurabian, said it underscored the BHK’s continuing “evolution” into an opposition force, which is vindicating Ter-Petrosian’s strategy of seeking close cooperation with Tsarukian.
Zurabian reiterated the official HAK line that the BHK, which was part of Armenia’s governing coalition until June 2012, is not controlled by Kocharian, the man who ordered a deadly crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement in 2008. “The BHK is an independent factor, and a much more powerful one than Robert Kocharian,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
But another opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), continued to cast doubt on Tsarukian’s opposition credentials. Stepan Safarian, a senior Zharangutyun member, argued that the tycoon will risk losing his vast business assets if he genuinely campaigns for regime change.