Gagik Tsarukian on Monday warned parliament deputies from his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) against publicly expressing their personal opinions after one of them voiced support for the indicted former President Robert Kocharian.
“I stand for freedom for Robert Kocharian,” the lawmaker, Vartan Ghukasian, said late last week amid continuing political fallout from an Armenian court’s May 18 decision to free the ex-president from custody.
The statement led Tsarukian to hold an emergency meeting of the BHK’s parliamentary group, the second largest in the National Assembly.
“For that reason I held today a meeting during which I warned everyone that nobody has the right to express their personal opinion,” the BHK leader told reporters. BHK deputies should make public statements on various issues only if the opposition party formulates a position on them, he said.
A senior BHK figure, Naira Zohrabian, stressed that Ghukasian’s remark does not reflect the party line. “That is Mr. Ghukasian’s personal opinion, and I can reaffirm today that it is not the BHK faction’s opinion,” she said.
Zohrabian also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Ghukasian did not attend the faction meeting chaired by Tsarukian.
Ghukasian, 58, served as mayor of Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri during and after Kocharian’s 1998-2008 presidency. He strongly supported the ex-president who was arrested last year on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
Tsarukian likewise had a cordial rapport with Kocharian. But both he and his party have sought to distance themselves from the latter since last spring’s “velvet revolution” which brought Nikol Pashinian to power. They have pointedly declined to criticize Kocharian’s prosecution as politically motivated.
“The BHK view is that in the new Armenia political processes must not be mixed with legal processes,” said Zohrabian. “It’s a totally legal process. We want to be sure that there is and there will be no political pressure on legal processes.”
Tsarukian was irked on May 29 by a reporter’s remark that Kocharian had helped him make a big fortune. “I don’t have obligations to anyone,” he stated in that regard.