Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force, publicly disagreed on Tuesday with assertions that President Serzh Sarkisian is “irreplaceable” as the country’s commander-in-chief.
Senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have said in recent weeks that Sarkisian should stay in power in one way or another after completing his final presidential term in April. They say that nobody else can deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other security challenges facing the country as successfully as he has.
“There are no irreplaceable people,” Tsarukian said when asked by reporters to comment on such statements. “Put such questions to the Republican Party. In the [April 2017] parliamentary elections 55 percent of our people voted for the Republican Party. So they will decide, they will present [their candidate for the post of prime minister.]”
The millionaire businessman, whose alliance finished second in the elections, would not say whether he thinks Sarkisian should become prime minister or let Prime Minister Karen Karapetian retain his post in April. He repeated only that it is up to the HHK to pick the next premier.
Tsarukian 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 2017 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, raising questions about the Tsarukian Bloc’s opposition credentials.
Tsarukian confirmed that the bloc will not join a demonstration against the latest consumer price hikes in Armenia which will be held by another opposition alliance, Yelk, on Friday. He said that street protests cannot remedy the increased cost of living. He also argued that the Armenian parliament will hold soon hearings on the price hikes at the president’s initiative.