Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Tuesday urged the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), of which he is a senior member, to officially declare itself an opposition political force.
“What Prosperous Armenia is doing today is very close to the classical definition of opposition,” Oskanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But since we created hurdles for ourselves … that has created complications.”
“If we make such clarifications, I think a lot will change in our political field,” he said.
The BHK, which is led by millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian and boasts the second largest parliamentary faction, has been very critical of the Armenian government ever since withdrawing from the ruling coalition in June last year. However, it has stopped short of officially declaring that it is in opposition to President Serzh Sarkisian. BHK representatives have instead referred to their party as an “alterative” to the country’s current leadership.
The BHK’s official transformation into an opposition force could be resisted by wealthy businessmen affiliated with the influential party. Analysts believe that they are reluctant to openly challenge the government for fear of losing their business assets.
Several BHK-affiliated entrepreneurs holding seats in the Armenian parliament attended Sarkisian’s inauguration for a second term in office April 9. Tsarukian, Oskanian and most of the other BHK parliamentarians were absent from the ceremony.
Asked whether his proposal will meet with resistance from other senior BHK figures, Oskanian said, “I know that there are different views within the party, which is very natural.” The party leadership will discuss the proposal and make a political decision, he added.
Oskanian also insisted that Tsarukian, who is one of the country’s richest men, does not fear a politically motivated government crackdown on his companies. “I don’t think so,” said the former minister. “What should he be afraid of? We should get that out of our mind. The authorities wish we were afraid.
“When political activities, dissent and pluralism are protected by the constitution, why should we be afraid? It’s the authorities that should worry that if they abuse their levers they could be held accountable in case of regime change.”
Tsarukian was widely expected to challenge Sarkisian in the February 2013 presidential election. However, he dropped out of the presidential race following a confidential meeting with the president held in December. The reasons for the move remain unknown.