A wealthy businessman who founded the Prosperous Armenia Party but who quit politics under government pressure in 2015 is hinting at making a political comeback
Speaking to media on October 26, Gagik Tsarukian said he ceased his political activities last year to avoid bloodshed that he implied would be inevitable if he and his loyalists continued to push for a regime change.
But he said that he might "reopen the page" that he had turned, "even if he does not need it today."
President Serzh Sarkisian in February 2015 called Tsarukian evil and said he should not have a place in Armenian politics. Sarkisan also threatened to prosecute him for alleged tax evasion.
Tsarukian initially responded by calling for Sarkisian's ouster but eventually backed off, resigning as party leader and announcing that he was quitting politics altogether despite retaining a seat in parliament.
The two men subsequently made peace, repeatedly making joint public appearances, including most recently at the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, where Tsarukian was head of Armenia's National Olympic Committee.
Party leaders, including Naira Zohrabian, have been calling for Tsarukian's return to politics ahead of parliamentary elections in April. Zohrabian described it as a "public demand."
More than 1,000 Tsarukian supporters staged a rally on October 24 outside the tycoon’s sprawling mansion in Abovian, a town some 20 kilometers northeast of Yerevan, urging the former political heavyweight to return to politics.
But Tsarukian told the sympathetic crowd through his security staff not to gather near his house again, saying he would personally announce any change of plans.
Two days later, he signaled he had a change of heart, saying, without elaborating:
"Having turned the page of my political activities, for two years I stayed with my state and with my people and have done everything for my people. I am from this country and have invested all my money in this country. If there is a need for that, if prominent political figures fail in making headway, if there is a demand for that, even if I don’t need it now...it is possible that the closed page will be reopened," he said.
Tsarukian also praised the current prime minister, Karen Karapetian. "I know our prime minister very well. I have a high regard for him," he said.
Tsarukian previously has been critical of the government's handling of economic affairs.