Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), on Friday again accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government of mishandling the coronavirus crisis and its socioeconomic consequences.
But Tsarukian stopped short of explicitly demanding the government’s resignation this time around, saying more vaguely instead that “inept officials must be replaced by competent ones.”
“The authorities are said to be afraid of Tsarukian and this is why they launched a campaign against him,” he said in a lengthy statement. “They should not be afraid of Tsarukian. They should be afraid of hundreds of thousands of people left without work and income.”
Tsarukian, who is also a wealthy businessman, attacked the government and demanded its resignation at a June 5 meeting with senior BHK members. “We are losing the country,” he declared in a speech strongly condemned by Pashinian and the ruling My Step bloc.
Ten days later, Tsarukian was stripped of its parliamentary immunity from prosecution and indicted on vote buying charges rejected by him as politically motivated. He claims that Pashinian ordered the criminal proceedings in response to his speech.
The BHK leader said on Friday that the speech as a “wakeup call” to the government.
“I have reason to suspect that the authorities do not realize the real scale of problems,” he wrote. “They don’t realize that we will soon have 200,000-300,000 new unemployed people, that tens of thousands of business are shutting down … that if we don’t rescue them today it will not be possible to revive them tomorrow.”
Tsarukian described Armenia’s coronavirus crisis as a “disaster” and accused the government of wasting public funds meant to shore up businesses affected by the pandemic. In these circumstances, the government should “get serious” and “listen to advice and proposals from others,” said the tycoon who was infected with COVID-19 last week and has not yet recovered from it.
While claiming that the current government has prevented him from creating thousands of new jobs, Tsarukian pledged to come up soon with “large-scale investment projects” that will mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic.
He said he will also strive to improve Armenia’s relations with Russia because he believes they are vital for his country’s national security and economic development. “Why would Russia’s big business … come to Armenia if our relations with Russia are tense?” he added.
BHK representatives did not clarify whether the indicted tycoon’s latest statement means that the Pashinian administration’s resignation is no longer on their party’s agenda.
For her part, Pashinian’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, declined to comment on the statement.