Businessman Gagik Tsarukian said on Thursday that his political alliance will not nominate a candidate for the post of Armenia’s next president who will be elected by parliament in March.
He argued that the Tsarukian Bloc lacks the majority of seats in the National Assembly controlled by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
“If we have 31 deputies but need [the support of] 75 ones, why should we field [a candidate?]” Tsarukian told reporters in Gyumri. “We will never dilute our political weight.”
Under the Armenian constitution controversially amended in 2015, the next head of state must be chosen one month before President Serzh Sarkisian completes his second and final term in early April. The end of his decade-long rule will be followed by the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. It means that Sarkisian’s successor will have largely ceremonial powers.
The opposition Yelk alliance announced last week that it wants to nominate one of its senior members, Artak Zeynalian, for the job and will try to secure the Tsarukian Bloc’s backing for his candidacy.
The constitution stipulates that only those individuals who are backed by at least 27 members of the 105-seat parliament can run for president. Yelk holds only 9 parliament seats.
Tsarukian gave no indications that his bloc will back the Yelk candidate. “That paper [from Yelk] hasn’t yet reached me,” he said before telling reporters to change the subject.
The Tsarukian Bloc, which finished second in the April 2017 parliamentary elections, claims to be in opposition to the government. But the influential tycoon and his loyalists have been careful not to attack President Sarkisian in their public statements.
Visiting Armenia’s second largest city, Tsarukian also announced that he will donate 100 million drams ($206,000) to low-income Gyumri residents so that they can spend more on the upcoming celebrations of the New Year’s and Christmas holidays in their homes.
“For us the greatest asset is people,” said one of the country’s richest men. “We have to appreciate our people.”
Tsarukian was greeted by hundreds of such people outside Gyumri’s main cathedral undergoing protracted repairs. Many of them handed him letters asking for financial assistance.