Wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian, the founder and former leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) who quit politics under apparent government pressure in 2015, does not rule out his possible political comeback “if there is a need and demand for that.”
Speaking to media on Wednesday, Tsarukian, who attended an international business exhibition in Yerevan, stressed that he ceased his political activities last year in order to avoid bloodshed that he implied would be inevitable if he and his loyalists continued to push for a regime change. He added, however, that he might “reopen the page” that he had turned “even if he does not need it today.”
Addressing senior members of his ruling Republican Party in February 2015, President Serzh Sarkisian branded the ambitious tycoon as “evil” who should not have a place in Armenian politics and threatened to prosecute him for alleged tax evasion. Tsarukian initially responded by calling for Sarkisian’s ouster but eventually caved in, resigning as BHK leader and announcing that he was quitting politics altogether despite retaining a seat in parliament. The two men subsequently made peace, repeatedly making joint public appearances, including most recently at the summer Olympic Games in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil, where Tsarukian was in the capacity of the head of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee.
Calls for Tsarukian’s return to active politics ahead of parliamentary elections due in April were first made a few weeks ago and even current BHK leader Naira Zohrabian described them as a “public demand”.
Several hundred Tsarukian supporters staged a “spontaneous” rally outside the tycoon’s sprawling mansion in Abovian, a town some 20 kilometers to the northeast of capital Yerevan, on Monday urging the former political heavyweight to return to active politics. But Tsarukian then told the sympathetic crowd through his security staff not to gather near his house again and that he would personally announce his plans on that account, if necessary.
“Having turned the page of my political activities, for two years I stayed with my state and with my people and have done everything for my people. I am from this country and have invested all my money in this country. If there is a need for that, if prominent political figures fail in making headway, if there is a demand for that, even if I don’t need it now,… it is possible that the closed page will be reopened,” Tsarukian said today, without elaborating as to whether his possible return to politics will be on an opposition platform.
He stressed, however, that he had forgiven everyone and did not bear a grudge against anyone, including the ruling party members who had made personal insults against him. “I want everyone to know that Tsarukian is not en evil person, he is a forgiving person,” he said.
Tsarukian also praised the current prime minister, Karen Karapetian. “I know our prime minister very well. I have a high regard for him. Most importantly, Mr. prime minister knows what he’s doing. Don’t worry,” he said.
Since 2012, when his then political party quit the governing coalition, Tsarukian was known for his criticism of especially the handling of economic affairs by Armenia’s successive governments.