Businessman Gagik Tsarukian has given more indications that he will return to active politics nearly two years after his bitter dispute with President Serzh Sarkisian.
Visiting Gyumri on Sunday, the founder of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said he will make a statement on his political future “in the coming days.” He avoided any criticism of the government, saying instead that Armenians should “unite” to cope with economic and security challenges facing their country.
“I can’t sit idly by while seeing internal, foreign policy problems and challenges and the danger facing Karabakh and, most importantly, knowing that or enemy can’t wait to take revenge” Tsarukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) when asked about his possible comeback.
“We all must be conscious of this,” he said. “Each of us must put aside their personal and political interests and think about the soldiers guarding our borders and our country’s future. If everyone realizes this and unites, everything will be alright.”
Tsarukian reiterated his past assertions that he does not engage in politics for personal gain. “I don’t have personal ambitions and don’t need state posts,” he said. “What I need is to see my people smile and be happy, to see no emigration and to see a strong state.”
“You can’t be strong if you are divided,” he went on. “We should put aside personal interests by rallying around a common idea.”
Tsarukian’s BHK finished second in Armenia’s last two parliamentary elections. It joined Sarkisian’s coalition government formed in 2008 but pulled out of it in 2012 amid Tsarukian’s growing disagreements with the president.
The discord came to a head in early 2015 as Tsarukian attempted to scuttle Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform with the help of Armenia’s established opposition parties. The president harshly criticized the influential tycoon and threatened to prosecute him for tax evasion. Tsarukian resigned as BHK and quits politics as a result.
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.
The BHK’s current leaders began campaigning in October for the party founder’s return to the political arena. They indicated earlier this month that he will likely heed their appeals. They also insisted that the BHK will remain in opposition to Sarkisian if it is again headed by Tsarukian.
Some veteran opposition figures claim, however, that Tsarukian’s comeback is part of Sarkisian’s efforts to weaken the country’s genuine opposition forces ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
Tsarukian stopped short of criticizing the government on Sunday when he was asked to comment on the socioeconomic situation in Armenia and Gyumri in particular. He said instead that Armenians should “stand united” in confronting challenges facing their country.
“We can’t achieve success unless we are united and stand with each other,” added Tsarukian.