Who and why is interested in Gagik Tsarukyan's return to politics
There is a formation of new parties and blocs in Armenia before the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be held on April 2, 2017. The possible return of the former leader of the 'Prosperous Armenia' Party, one of the largest entrepreneurs Gagik Tsarukyan, to politics is of particular interest. In February 2015, Tsarukyan was forced to abandon his political activity under pressure from the authorities, first and foremost, President Serzh Sargsyan. The PAP's cooperation with the radical opposition party 'Armenian National Congress', joint mass meetings, as well as harsh criticism of the authorities from Tsarukyan and his associates caused discontent in the presidential palace and repressions against the party and its leader.
Then, an agreement was reached between the government and Tsarukyan through the mediation of an Armenian-born Russian billionaire, Samvel Karapetyan: Tsarukyan will leave politics, and the government promises not to touch his property and not interfere with his business activities. For eighteen months the two sides did not go beyond the red line. It seemed that the issue of Tsarukyan's political activity is removed from the agenda.
The issue has become actual two months ago, when his former party comrades started saying about a demand in Tsarukyan as a politician. A lot of media outlets are actively participating in this campaign, predicting an imminent return of the PAP ex-leader to politics. And Tsarukyan himself does not exclude the possibility of his return: "It has been two years since I closed my page of politics, but I have always been with my people. If there is a need, perhaps, the turned page will be open again. Let all politicians know that Tsarukyan is able to forgive".
Not just the losing popularity PAP, which ranks have thinned considerably after its charismatic leader left, but also the government is interested in Tsarukyan's return. The general discontent of the population with government's policy makes the ruling elite to reflect on new schemes to attract votes. It's not just distrust of society, which has been around for years, the problem also is in the consistent position of the European institutions in holding fair elections in Armenia.
The Armenian government was forced to accept the disadvantageous for them changes in the new Electoral Code, proposed by the opposition, under external pressure. The changes, which require the publication of lists of voters and a criminal liability after voting instead of another citizen, limit the possibility for the authorities to falsify the election results. Therefore, the ruling elite is searching for reserve paths to reproduce power.
According to political experts, Tsarukyan's return to active politics, is impossible without the consent of Serzh Sargsyan. After February 2015, Tsarukyan, who has always been a dependent figure, fell under a greater control of the authorities. Taking into account Tsarukyan's financial possibilities, we can safely assume that after his return, the PAP will enter the parliament without any fraud.
Political expert Vigen Akopyan believes that if Tsarukyan does decide to return to politics, the authorities would benefit, since he could take away protest votes from the opposition in the upcoming parliamentary elections. "Tsarukyan disclaims any revolutionary scenario, since, in his words," there is blood in there". That is, if he comes back, he will be very loyal to the authorities, and that is what they need today," Akopyan believes.
According to political expert Gagik Gambaryan, the local elections have shown that not only the opposition has a problem, but the authorities as well: "There will be no bonuses during the parliamentary elections in the future. In fact, both in Vanadzor and Gyumri authorities have failed, and now they are probably realizing their next plan - the return of Tsarukyan".
Perhaps, according to the plans of the authorities, the PAP will become the ruling party's partner already after the elections, after pulling enough votes from the real opposition. For the same reason, according to some media reports, the authorities are preparing another scenario - the creation of a new political column headed by the millionaires Gagik Tsarukyan, Khachatur Sukiasyan and Gurgen Arsenyan. It is likely that the basis of this idea is not just take protest votes away from the opposition, but also create such conditions when these rich people could not provide financial support for the opposition. Time will tell which of these scenarios the government will prefer. The ruling elite is developing a number of other projects to divert the protest electorate.