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Tsarukian ‘Insists’ On Government’s Resignation


ARMENIA -- A supporter of Armenian opposition leader Gagik Tsarukian holds its portrait during a unauthorized rally close to National Secuirury Service headquarter in Yerevan, June 14, 2020

Gagik Tsarukian stands by his calls for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation made three months ago, a leading member of his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said on Friday.

In a June 5 speech, Tsarukian accused Pashinian’s government of mishandling Armenia’s coronavirus crisis and failing to mitigate its socioeconomic consequences. Pashinian and his loyalists reacted angrily to that speech.

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.

Tsarukian, who is one of the country’s richest businessmen, reiterated last week his criticism of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and other policies. But he stopped short of demanding that Pashinian and all members of his government step down.

Mikael Melkumian, a senior BHK figure, insisted that Tsarukian remains determined to achieve the government’s resignation and force snap elections. “What was said on June 5 and afterwards remains in force,” he told journalists.

“In a political struggle you don’t have to repeat the same thing every day,” Melkumian said when asked about Tsarukian’s most recent statements that did not mention regime change.

Shortly after Tsarukian’s indictment, the BHK, which has the second largest group in Armenia’s parliament, joined forces with two other opposition parties: Hayrenik and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). They have not ruled out the possibility of holding joint anti-government rallies.

Hayk Gevorgian, a senior parliamentarian from the ruling My Step bloc, was dismissive of the threat to Pashinian’s hold on power emanating from the BHK. He said Tsarukian’s party is simply trying to preserve its shrinking support base in the face of the ongoing criminal proceedings against its leader.

“In reality, the BHK has one objective: the issues connected with its leader,” Gevorgian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “You know about the criminal cases.”

Gevorgian said that the BHK and other opposition forces cannot come to power by exploiting the coronavirus pandemic and resulting socioeconomic hardship. “They are in a hurry because very soon this environment will be over, economic progress in Armenia will resume and they will stand no chance,” he said, adding that most Armenians continue to support the current government.

The Armenian economy is on course to shrink in 2020 after three consecutive years of robust growth.

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