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Businessman Gagik Tsarukian, who leads Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force, on Monday did not rule out the possibility of reaching a new power-sharing agreement with President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).

He gave no indication that the Tsarukian Bloc, which claims to be in opposition to the Armenian government, would challenge Sarkisian’s possible decision to become prime minister after completing his final term in April.

Speaking to journalists, Tsarukian also referred to Prime Minister Karen Karapetian as his “friend” and offered guarded praise for the latter’s track record.

“I don’t exclude anything in life,” he said when asked about the possibility of a coalition agreement with the HHK. “The bottom line is that I will honor my promises to the people.”

Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the dominant force in his bloc, was a junior coalition partner in the Sarkisian administration from 2008-2012. The party pulled out of the government amid mounting tensions between the tycoon and the president. The discord culminated in a February 2015 standoff between the two men. Tsarukian resigned as BHK leader at the time only to return to active politics in the run-up to the April 2017 parliamentary elections.

During the election campaign Tsarukian criticized the socioeconomic situation in Armenia but stopped short of openly blaming Sarkisian for it. His bloc finished second in the polls, winning 31 seats in the country’s 105-seat parliament. Official election results gave a landslide victory to the ruling HHK.

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) attends the inauguration of a new fitness center in Yerevan owned by businessman Gagik Tsarukian (R), 31Oct2016.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) attends the inauguration of a new fitness center in Yerevan owned by businessman Gagik Tsarukian (R), 31Oct2016.

Tsarukian on Monday would not be drawn on Sarkisian’s possible decision to stay in power as prime minister.“I don’t answer questions with ‘ifs,’” he said. “I will speak when the Republican Party nominates its candidate [for the post of prime minister.] That right is reserved for the Republicans.”

The tycoon insisted that Sarkisian’s HHK won a popular mandate to continue governing the country in the April elections. He dismissed as “baseless” some opposition politicians’ claims that the vote was rigged.

Asked whether the Tsarukian Bloc would attempt to create obstacles to Sarkisian’s appointment as prime minister, he said: “The obstacle should have been our people. If our people gave more than 50 percent of the vote to the Republican Party, the Republican Party is responsible for the country, the people, the state and its security.”

Sarkisian has still not clarified whether he plans to become prime minister, replace Prime Minister Karapetian with someone else or let him retain his post in April 2018. His political allies have also been vague on the subject.

Asked to assess Karapetian’s one-year track record, Tsarukian said: “I don’t find it correct to express an opinion on my friend. When we meet, I speak of both negative and positive things. Today positive things are visible: interest rates have fallen from 25-30 percent to 8-10 percent, the number of [foreign] tourists has risen by over 25 percent.”

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