Businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s political alliance made clear on Thursday that it will not join a demonstration against the latest consumer price hikes in Armenia which is planned by another opposition group.
The Yelk bloc said earlier this week that it will rally supporters in Yerevan on January 19 to protest against the increased prices of fuel and some foodstuffs. It blamed the Armenian government for rising inflation.
“We respect decisions taken by partner political forces and their methods of struggle,” Mikael Melkumian, a leading member of the Tsarukian Bloc, said of the planned protest. “It’s up to them to do that. But we have our own style of work.”
“We believe that a lot can be done in the parliament,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Melkumian, who is also a deputy speaker of the parliament, said the Tsarukian Bloc will be seeking to counter the price hikes with legislative initiatives. In particular, he said, it will press the pro-government majority in the parliament next week to agree to sweeping tax cuts that have long been championed by Tsarukian.
The tycoon’s political force controls 31 seats in the 105-member National Assembly, making it the second largest parliamentary force. By comparison, Yelk has only 9 parliament deputies.
One of those deputies, Lena Nazarian, said on Thursday that the upcoming Yelk rally may mark the beginning of sustained street protests. “After all, the street is a political environment and people protesting on the street can influence policy and decisions made by the National Assembly,” she said.
Although the Tsarukian Bloc claims to be in opposition to President Serzh Sarkisian, political analysts continue to question its opposition credentials.
Tsarukian, who is one of the country’s richest men, was forced to leave the political arena nearly three years ago after challenging Sarkisian’s hold on power. He returned to active politics ahead of the April 2017 parliamentary elections. The tycoon and his allies criticized government policies but avoided personal attacks on the president during the election campaign.
Sarkisian has regularly attended the inaugurations of new businesses set up by Tsarukian in the last two years.