The businessman, Khachatur Sukiasian, is fifth on Civil Contract’s list of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Another prominent entrepreneur, Gurgen Arsenian, occupies 14th position on the list.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian repeatedly pledged to separate business from politics shortly after coming to power in May 2018. He declared that wealthy Armenian entrepreneurs no longer need to hold parliament seats in order to protect and expand their assets.
In an interview with told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Sukiasian denied any contradiction between his participation in the elections and Pashinian’s statements. He said the prime minister referred to corrupt government officials who had enriched themselves while in office “at the expense of business owners.”
Sukiasian also ruled out any potential conflicts of interest arising from his current political activities. “To be honest, I have not engaged in business since 2005,” he claimed. “I have mostly engaged in analyses. But of course, I’m a business owner.”
“I thought a lot about whether or not to run [in the elections,]” said Sukiasian. “The number one [motive] was always this: so that there is a stable [parliamentary] majority and Armenia follows the same path for several more years.”
He said he also wants to prevent Armenia’s former rulers from returning to power as a result of the snap elections scheduled for June 20.
Sukiasian, 59, became one of the country’s richest men during the 1991-1998 rule of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. He was reputedly close to some key members of Ter-Petrosian’s administration at the time.
The tycoon openly backed Ter-Petrosian in a disputed February 2008 presidential election in which the ex-president was the main opposition candidate. He fled Armenia in March 2008 to escape arrest on charges stemming from post-election violence in Yerevan. He returned to the country in 2009 and rarely criticized then President Serzh Sarkisian in the following years.
Arsenian, the other tycoon allied to Pashinian, led a small pro-government party and held a parliament seat in the 2000s when Armenia was ruled by Robert Kocharian, Sarkisian’s predecessor.
Opposition blocs led by Kocharian and Sarkisian are among the main opposition forces challenging Pashinian and his party in the current parliamentary race.