To new parliament with old oligarchs: Despite President’s assurances, businesspeople still on election lists

To new parliament with old oligarchs: Despite President’s assurances, businesspeople still on election lists


Despite the fact that representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia said earlier that in the future the number of businessmen as parliament deputies will be kept to a minimum, almost all of today’s tycoons represented in the legislature are either on the proportional lists of parties or running for reelection in one of 41 single-seat constituencies.

Experts consider several reasons why President Serzh Sargsyan, who appears to be strongly determined to carry out reforms, has, nevertheless, opted for including oligarchs in the lists.

The government-linked businessmen, such as tycoon Samvel Alexanyan, who is a monopolist in the import of flour, sugar and some other staples and owns a chain of supermarkets, Yerevan City, say formally they are not businessmen. The law prohibits people from being lawmakers only if they are directly engaged in business. Alexanyan, for example, says that his wife runs the business and that even she paid for the plastic surgery on his nose.

There is, indeed, this legislative gap, and it is very difficult to expose the lawmaker as a businessperson.

Besides, experts began to doubt that decisions within the Republican Party are taken by President Sargsyan single-handedly. They talk about the pressure and even threats from some oligarchs to move to another camp unless Sargsyan included them in the lists.

It is remarkable that the struggle of “reformers” (believed to be headed by Sargsyan’s son-in-law, spin doctor Mikael Minasyan) and “conservatives”, including party functionaries and controversial oligarchs, has been on within the Republican Party for a long time now.

The influence of the reformers at first seemed to be growing, but closer to the elections the government-linked businessmen seem to have won. This is evidenced by the fact that Sargsyan withdrew his son-in-law Minasyan from his administration and sent him to the party’s campaign headquarters as an aide to the former Speaker, Hovik Abrahamyan, who, by the way, also has extensive business interests.

But the chief reason that media mention is preparations for next February’s presidential elections. A tough competition between the three likely candidates – the three “Presidents” of Armenia can already be clearly outlined. In accordance with this, Sargsyan has the task of neutralizing the strongest possible contenders – first president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan and second president Robert Kocharyan, who is said to be considering a political comeback.

While the matters with the first president can be solved by “not obstructing” the opposition Armenian National Congress led by him from entering the parliament, then things with the second president are much more complicated. Kocharyan does not yet declare about his plans for the future, but Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party believed to be loyal to Kocharyan, once emphasized the ex-president’s merits, noting that Kocharyan has every right to run for president.

In this regard, Sargsyan faces the task of keeping in his team those who could potentially join the team of Kocharyan, including the oligarchs, who still maintain their clout. Presumably because of this Sargsyan preferred to go back on his promise not to include businessmen in election lists in order not to put them off a year before the presidential race.

The main criterion for the inclusion in the proportional list of the ruling Republican Party is the assistance to the party’s leader, President Sargsyan, said Vice-Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, spokesman for the Republican Party Eduard Sharmazanov.

Speaking about the competition with the Prosperous Armenia Party, he said: “No one from the Prosperous Armenia Party has yet declared that they would not support the candidacy of Serzh Sargsyan during the 2013 presidential election.”

But if Sargsyan has, indeed, been able to neutralize the potential obstacles to his second term, the society is still to get an answer to one question - how sincere were the intentions of the Sargsyan team to carry out reforms?