The second most important party in Armenia’s governing coalition strongly condemned on Friday an influential businessman close to President Serzh Sarkisian for describing it as the brainchild of his predecessor Robert Kocharian.
“It is really no secret that the [creation of the] Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) was the former president’s project,” Barsegh Beglarian told the “Aravot” daily in an interview published the same day.
Beglarian, who owns the country’s largest fuel-importing company, made the claim as he dismissed renewed talk of mounting friction between Sarkisian and Kocharian.
The BHK, which is led by another tycoon, Gagik Tsarukian, was quick to respond to it with a scathing personal attack. “Being somebody’s project was apparently Barsegh Beglarian’s childhood dream,” the BHK’s press service said in a statement.
“We would advise him to mind his business before making incorrect evaluations,” it said. “Judging from Beglarian’s failed projects, he should not be lacking issues.”
The party, which has three ministerial portfolios and boasts the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, claimed that Beglarian has failed to set up a party of his own after a year-long tour of and cities and villages across the country. It also questioned the personal integrity Nagorno-Karabakh-born businessman who was a university professor in the past.
Tsarukian is widely believed to have become one of Armenia’s wealthiest men by the early 2000s thanks to a close personal relationship with Kocharian. Accordingly, most local analysts think the ex-president was behind the BHK’s inception in 2006. It was regarded then as a counterweight to Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The BHK launched its political activities in the months leading up to the May 2007 parliamentary elections with a distribution of relief aid to tends of thousands of impoverished farmers. It also tried to win over urban voters by providing them with free medical aid and other supposedly public services.
Despite claiming to have recruited over 400,000 members, Tsarukian’s party did not prevent the HHK from winning the disputed vote by a landslide. It backed Sarkisian in the February 2008 presidential election and joined his coalition cabinet formed afterwards.
The BHK’s angry reaction to Beglarian’s remark follows weeks of intense speculation about Kocharian’s alleged desire to return to active politics and even government. It was stoked by Kocharian’s thinly veiled criticism of the Armenian government’s economic policies voiced in late March.
The criticism came one week after Tsarukian publicly lambasted Trade and Economic Minister Nerses Yeritsian for declaring that the economic crisis in Armenia is over. Yeritsian, who is affiliated with the HHK, hit back at the tycoon.