Businessman Gagik Tsarukian is returning to active politics as part of President Serzh Sarkisian’s efforts to weaken Armenia’s genuine opposition forces, an opposition leader claimed on Tuesday.
Tsarukian is expected to resume his political activities at the helm of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) nearly two years after resigning as BHK leader under strong pressure from the government. He quit after unsuccessfully trying to scuttle Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform.
The two men publicly traded insults during their bitter row. But they apparently made peace after Tsarukian’s exit, with Sarkisian repeatedly attending the inauguration of new businesses set up by the tycoon.
Aram Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh), a veteran politician leading the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, insisted that the Armenian president has given the green light for Tsarukian’s political comeback.
“Tsarukian did not willingly quit politics and he is not willingly returning to politics,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He was allowed to return to politics.”
The prominent oppositionist, who served as prime minister in 1999-2000, claimed that the president decided to “reinsert Tsarukian into the political field” in an effort to divert many votes from established opposition parties to the BHK in next April’s parliamentary elections.
“The authorities realized that there are forces which are beyond their control and are not their clients, had a problem with that, and are now trying to solve that problem,” he said.
The BHK finished second in Armenia’s last two parliamentary elections, capitalizing on Tsarukian’s popularity among blue-collar voters and vast financial resources. The party’s chairperson, Naira Zohrabian insisted on Monday that both Tsarukian and the BHK as a whole remain in opposition to the government.
Aram Sarkisian’s party was a key opposition force in the 2000s but has kept a low profile in recent years and is not represented in the current Armenian parliament. It announced last week that it is close to forming an electoral alliance with two other opposition parties, Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract and Edmon Marukian’s Bright Armenia.