Ara Abrahamian, a businessman leading Russia’s largest Armenian Diaspora organization, admitted on Tuesday that he did not expect the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to comfortably win last month’s parliamentary elections.
Abrahamian seemed disappointed with the official results of the April 2 vote, while accepting their legitimacy. “I read international newspapers [which said] that there were very normal elections [in Armenia] for the first time,” he told reporters in Yerevan.
“I feel sorry,” he went on. “You had a chance in those elections and I don’t know how you used it … Yes, the results were unexpected. But I can say one thing: the will of the people is final for me.”
The Armenian-born tycoon, who has long enjoyed the Kremlin’s backing, urged Armenians to press the election winner to deliver on its campaign promises. “We must now create a mechanism for the fulfillment of their promises,” he said.
Abrahamian, 60, announced plans to start political activities in Armenia in October 2015 as he marked the 15th anniversary of his Union of Armenians of Russia. He said he will most probably set up a political party to contest the April 2017 elections. He stated in November 2016, however, that he will steer clear of Armenian politics for health reasons.
Abrahamian was not among 30 wealthy Russian businessmen of Armenian descent who issued a joint statement during Prime Minister Karen Karapetian’s official visit to Moscow in January. They voiced “full support” for “profound reforms” planned by Karapetian’s cabinet and expressed readiness to finance “business projects” in Armenia.
The entrepreneurs led by billionaire Samvel Karapetian (no relation to the prime minister) went on to set up a multimillion-dollar investment fund for that purpose. Officials in Yerevan say that it will invest $300 million in the Armenian economy this year alone.
In what appears to be a related development, the Armenian government and the state-controlled Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) created a similar fund in March. An agreement on its establishment was reached during Karen Karapetian’s January talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The Armenian premier lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, holding senior executive positions in local subsidiaries of the Gazprom energy giant. He has repeatedly pledged to improve Armenia’s investment climate since taking office in September.
Abrahamian said that the business environment still leaves much to be desired. He also complained that the Armenian authorities have not shown sufficient interest in his initiatives and, in particular, a business forum organized by his union in Yerevan last year.
“When the governor of one of Russia’s biggest banks, Herman Gref, spoke [at the forum] there were barely 15 people in the auditorium listening to him,” he said. “This is a misfortune, it shows the work of the authorities.”