Two senior members of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance lashed out at the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and called for its removal from power at an election campaign rally held on Monday.
“Giving this government a chance means putting an end to the Republic of Armenia,” one of them, Naira Zohrabian, told supporters in Garni, a large village 30 kilometers east of Yerevan. The upcoming parliamentary elections are an opportunity to oust “a government that has plundered you for 17 years,” she said.
Zohrabian also insisted that the Tsarukian Bloc will not enter into a coalition with the HHK as a result of the April 2 vote. “Their sole rival is the Tsarukian Bloc,” she said. “They have no other real rivals.”
The other Tsarukian associate, Mikael Melkumian, accused Armenia’s political leadership of corruption. “In our country, the political authority gives 20-30 families concrete privileges,” he said. “It tells them they can import fuel, fertilizers or bananas. Then five years later they summon those people and tell them: ‘Listen, we’ve given you so many privileges, you must spend your one-year revenue on vote bribes so that the government reproduces itself.’”
The scathing attacks sharply contrasted with Tsarukian’s more cautious campaign rhetoric. The tycoon, who did not attend the Garni rally, has criticized the socioeconomic situation in the country on the campaign trail but avoided explicitly blaming President Serzh Sarkisian or the HHK for it.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, questioned Tsarukian’s opposition credentials on Friday. Sharmazanov suggested that even his political allies “do not consider the Tsarukian Bloc to be in opposition.”
Tsarukian announced his return to the political arena in January two years after being forced by the authorities to resign as chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest force in the outgoing parliament. His comeback fueled speculation about a secret deal with Sarkisian aimed at diverting votes from genuine opposition parties. BHK representatives denied it.