A member of Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) who moved last month to run for president said on Wednesday that he is quitting the race to comply with the BHK’s decision not to nominate or endorse any presidential candidates.
Ruben Ayvazian was among 15 individuals who initially applied for registration as cadidates in the February 18 presidential election.
He said he decided on Tuesday not to carry on with his presidential bid after “consulting” with fellow members of Armenia’s second largest parliamentary party. He did not name any of them.
“They are my close friends. Their advice carries a lot of weight with me,” Ayvazian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Since the party board decided not to participate in the election I must fall in line and not participate,” he said.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK member close to Tsarukian, praised Ayvazian for making “the right decision.” “Prosperous Armenia is a disciplined party,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The party has declared that it will not take part in the election in any format. So it would not have been comprehensible if a party member had come up with such initiative.”
Zohrabian insisted at the same time that the party leadership did not exert pressure on Ayvazian.
Tsarukian was widely expected to become President Serzh Sarkisian’s main election challenger after pulling the BHK out of Armenia’s governing coalition in June 2012. However, he announced last month that he will not run in the election. He and his party also decided not to back other presidential candidates.
The unexpected move followed Tsarukian’s confidential December 8 meeting with Sarkisian.
Ayvazian, who is a lawyer working with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claimed that he would have been the main opposition candidate in the race. “If the people read my program and realized that it offers the only true path, I would get most votes,” he said.
The program calls for Armenia’s “salvation” through economic and political reforms as well as confiscation of private property and business assets which Ayvazian says were illegally privatized after the Soviet collapse.