Ending months of speculation, businessman Gagik Tsarukian announced on Tuesday his return to active politics, which is expected to have a major impact on the results of Armenia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections.
“Considering internal and external challenges facing our country and public demand for my return to politics, I declare that I am opening the closed page of my political activities and will participate in the 2017 parliamentary elections by forming a broad-based alliance,” Tsarukian said in a speech broadcast by his Kentron TV station.
The founder of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force, described the socioeconomic situation in Armenia as the main reason for his political comeback. “I would have refrained from participating in political processes if I had seen and been sure that the country is on the right track, that its economy is developing, that the welfare of its people is increasing,” he said.
But while deploring a “constant rise in poverty,” the tycoon did not criticize the Armenian government’s economic policies.
Tsarukian was forced to resign as BHK chairman and retire from politics in early 2015 after unsuccessfully attempting to thwart President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform jointly with other, established opposition groups.
Sarkisian and Tsarukian 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 his return to the political arena. Tsarukian said later that month that he is considering staging a political comeback.
“No political force or figure has managed to fill the void created in the political arena after my  decision,” Tsarukian said on Tuesday.
Tsarukian, who became one of the country’s richest men during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule, declined to name political groups which he expects to join his alliance.
He also stopped short of pledging to try to unseat the current government as a result of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2. He said only that the vote will be “fateful for Armenia’s future.”
Some veteran opposition figures claim that Tsarukian’s comeback is part of a secret deal with Sarkisian aimed at diverting many votes from genuine opposition parties. BHK representatives have denied these claims, saying that their party will remain in opposition to Sarkisian if it is again headed by Tsarukian.
The BHK finished second in Armenia’s last two parliamentary elections. The party joined Sarkisian’s coalition government formed in 2008 but pulled out of it in 2012.
Incidentally, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) reacted positively to Tsarukian’s announcement. Armen Ashotian, an HHK deputy chairman, said the tycoon’s involvement in the parliamentary race “could benefit political competition, regardless of the extent to which we agree with comments made in the statement.”
“I think that the race promises to be interesting,” Ashotian said in a statement.
Ashotian was among senior HHK figures who harshly criticized Tsarukian during an emergency meeting which was called by Sarkisian in February 2015.