Businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) appears to have refused to cooperate lawyers campaigning for a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on a government proposal to oust most Constitutional Court judges.
The 61 lawyers critical of the Armenian government have been registered by the Central Election Commission as the sole “No” side in the referendum campaign. The official status allows them to have free airtime on state television and appoint two of the seven members of each precinct-level election commission that will be formed for the April 5 vote.
They thus need to recruit over 4,000 people ready to join those commissions, a difficult task for the mostly Yerevan-based lawyers.
Last week, the No campaign appealed to the BHK and three other major opposition parties to help fill its quotas with their members and supporters. The Bright Armenia (LHK), Republican and Dashnaktsutyun parties replied that their licensed members are free to take up the commission seats despite their calls for a boycott of what they describe as an unconstitutional referendum.
Ruben Melikian, a “No” campaign coordinator, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday that the BHK has turned down its proposal.
A senior BHK representative, Arman Abovian, explained that Tsarukian’s party will not “officially” dispatch its members to the precinct commissions. But he would not say whether they can join the commissions in an unofficial capacity.
The BHK, which has the second largest group in the Armenian parliament, has been more cautious than the three other parties in opposing the controversial constitutional changes which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s political team has put on the referendum.
This stance has fuelled speculation that Tsarukian does not want to antagonize Pashinian for fear of a government crackdown on his businesses. Aides to the tycoon deny that.