Oct 31 2011

Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of Armenia's second most important
governing party, on Monday again refrained from explicitly reaffirming
support former President Serzh Sarkisian's reelection.

In an interview with the News.am online journal, Tsarukian rejected as
untrue media speculation about mounting tensions between his Prosperous
Armenia Party (BHK) and Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

The tycoon himself fuelled that speculation about a month ago when
he pointedly declined to state, in another interview, whom the BHK
will support in the next presidential election due in early 2013. He
spoke just days after former President Robert Kocharian, his longtime
political patron, indicated his desire to return to active politics.

Tsarukian committed himself to campaigning for Sarkisian's reelection
in a February declaration signed with the president and Artur
Baghdasarian of Orinats Yerkir, the third party represented in
Armenia's government.

Media reports this month have claimed that the BHK leader has come
under strong pressure from the presidential administration and the HHK
to restate that commitment or risk ouster from the ruling coalition.

Tsarukian blasted those reports, accusing "certain media outlets"
of spreading lies. "I think that our politicians, media and society
in general have long been able to tell real processes from made-up
campaigns," he said.

Tsarukian cited the February declaration, saying that the BHK and the
HHK remain bound by "joint goals." "We announced our joint goals ...

with the memorandum signed in February, stating that with our active
steps we will enhance the ruling coalition's role in our country and,
as a result of the [2012] parliamentary elections, we will earn our
parties greater representation in the National Assembly," he said.

Yet significantly, Tsarukian again made no mention of the declaration's
references to the 2013 presidential ballot.

Talk of the government pressure on the BHK intensified last week after
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said that political forces failing
to cooperate with the presidential HHK would "end up empty-handed."

Although he did not name those forces, the remarks were construed by
many local commentators as a stern warning to Tsarukian.

The prime minister insisted over the weekend, however, that he did
not refer to the BHK.