A top security aide to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Wednesday accused Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian of acting like a treasonous “fifth column” when he reacted to its calls for the government’s resignation.
Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Security Council, claimed that Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) have been trying to help the country’s former rulers return to power.
“That party is positioning itself as a fifth column and trying to associate itself with the former regime and carry out its reproduction,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Tsarukian said on Friday that Pashinian and his cabinet must step down because they have badly failed to contain the coronavirus epidemic and mitigate its socioeconomic consequences. Addressing senior BHK members, the tycoon also announced that he will try to rally “healthy” political groups and individuals “concerned about the country’s future.”
Grigorian dismissed Tsarukian’s unusually harsh criticism of the government as “completely baseless.” “They have no institutional capacity to start a process of the prime minister’s resignation or another political change,” he said. “They are doomed to fail.”
Grigorian said that the BHK’s and other opposition groups’ calls for Pashinian’s resignation are tantamount to high treason because they come at a time when Armenia is “literally waging a war against a hidden enemy” such as the coronavirus.
“Azerbaijan tried but failed to open such a war front during this fight against the coronavirus,” said the official. “That page was turned as a result of our riposte. But within Armenia they are trying, according to the logic of a fifth column, to take steps clearly doomed to fail.”
Pashinian and his political allies have also reacted furiously to Tsarukian’s statements. The prime minister’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, claimed on Friday that the BHK leader attacked the government because he fears being prosecuted on corruption, tax evasion and other grave charges.
The BHK, which has the second largest group in the Armenian parliament, rejected the “political blackmail.” One of its senior representatives said on Tuesday that Tsarukian stands by his calls and has already started meeting with other political figures also seeking regime change. He did not name any of them.
Tsarukian’s party was officially in opposition to Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia’s former longtime leader toppled in the Pashinian-led “Velvet Revolution” two years ago. The party voiced support for the revolution during its final stage, helped Pashinian become prime minister and joined his first cabinet formed in May 2018.
Pashinian fired his ministers affiliated with BHK in October 2018, accusing Tsarukian of secretly collaborating with the former regime.
The BHK came in a distant second in the December 2018 parliamentary elections and won 26 seats in Armenia’s 132-member parliament. Pashinian’s My Step bloc controls 88 parliament seats.