The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has reaffirmed its stated intention to significantly reduce the number of wealthy businesspeople representing it in the country’s parliament.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said late on Wednesday that none of them will be included on the HHK’s list of candidates who will run for the next National Assembly under the system of proportional representation. “There will no longer be famous businesspeople on our list and the president of the republic has made that political decision clear,” Sarkisian told journalists.
But he indicated that government-linked entrepreneurs will not necessarily be barred from seeking reelection in single-mandates constituencies across Armenia. “It’s too early to answer that question because we don’t know yet to who will run in which constituency,” he said.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the chief HHK spokesman, was also reluctant to speculate on how many wealthy individuals will field their candidacies in those districts. “Since there is no final decision yet, I will refrain from commenting,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday.
Armenian law reserves 41 of the 131 seats in the National Assembly for single-mandate districts. The 90 other parliament seats are to be contested on the party-list basis.
About two dozen businesspeople were elected to the current parliament on the HHK ticket and under the proportional representation system in 2007. A similar number of other entrepreneurs got elected on an individual basis. These deputies are mostly notorious for rarely attending parliament sessions.
Throughout 2011 the Armenian media was rife with speculation that President Serzh Sarkisian wants to replace many of them by more “political” figures. Sarkisian said in November that “business must be consistently separated from the state system and the authority.”
Businesspeople also abound in the parliament factions of the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir parties, the HHK’s junior partners in the coalition government. Heghine Bisharian, the Orinats Yerkir chairwoman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday that her party has also decided to minimize their presence on its electoral slate.
The BHK is less likely to follow suit. Its leader, Gagik Tsarukian, is one of Armenia’s richest entrepreneurs.
“The presence of businesspeople is necessary,” said Samvel Balasanian, a BHK deputy and also a businessman. “Can we do anything without the economy?”