Oskanian resigns from party, abandons his parliamentary mandate; Naira Zohrabyan elected new PAP chairman
YEREVAN—The chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party, Gagik Tsarukian on Thursday stepped down from the party’s leadership and announced that he was leaving politics. Also on Thursday, Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, who had joined the party several years ago, announced his resignation from the party.
Tsarukian made the announcement at an extraordinary session of the Prosperous Armenia Party. After his speech, prominent member of parliament Naira Zohrabyan was elected the new president of the party, which she officially declared was now an opposition force in Armenia.
“I’m abandoning active politics. I am no longer the chairman of the party. However, I will continue to serve my country and my people. This will be done in other areas. I will continue to build churches, schools, gyms, help people of culture and science. I will be doing so as an Armenian, as a citizen of Armenia,” Tsarukian said Thursday adding that he would resign as head of the parliamentary faction of the party.
He said he came to the decision, which he called “personal,” after thinking about it long and hard, adding that his political life thus far had been dedicated to the betterment of Armenia and its people.
“The only goal I pursued these years was to see a smile, not tears in the eyes of my people,” said Tsarukian, who explained that during his years as a political leader he was never motivated by personal ambitions nor did he use any support from the public for his personal benefit.
He urged his colleagues to not engage him in political debates nor to approach on political matters, but pledged that he would continue his philanthropic venture “to build churches, schools, gyms… I will do that as an Armenian, as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia.”
Tsarukyan’s withdrawal from politics came after a heated exchange of words between him and President Serzh Sarkisian last month, after the latter accused Tsarukian of usurping funds and fired him from Armenia’s National Security Agency. Tsarukian fired back by accusing the president of robbing people of Armenia form the national wealth.
After the political firestorm, a meeting took place between Tsarukian and Sarkisian on February 17 mediated by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Following the meeting, the Prosperous Armenia Party announced that a rally calling for regime change scheduled to take place on Feb. 20 at Yerevan’s Liberty Square had been canceled.
Vartan Oskanian explains his resignation
In a statement issued Thursday, Oskanian, who was Armenia’s former foreign minister, explained his decision to resign from the Prosperous Armenia Party and Parliament, saying that his move was prompted by the party’s failure to institute change in the country’s political system.
“The reason for my decision to end my membership in the Prosperous Armenia Party is that the party appeared to be unable to fulfill the desire, in my estimation, of the absolute majority of the Armenian people, who wanted to implement radical changes not only to drag the country out of the difficult situation, but also to choose a correct and sound direction of development, ” he said in the statement, which was posted on his Facebook page.
He acknowledged that his decision was also due to his own shortcomings in not being able to advance change.
“Those who are gloating over the situation the party now faces must first be concerned about the political situation in the country. Here, at issue isn’t the Prosperous Armenia Party but rather the measures recently taken against it and its leader,” said Oskanian.
He said arbitrary, discriminatory and unconstitutional use of levers of power is, first of all, a blow to the international prestige of Armenia, adding that such repressive measures had shattered the people’s hope for fundamental change, which could to “tragic consequences.”
Zohrabyan declares Prosperous Armenia Party as opposition force
Upon assuming the presidency of Prosperous Armenia Party on Thursday, Zohrabyan officially declared the party as an opposition force, a step that Tsarukian did not take during his tenure, despite leaving the governing coalition and refusing to re-join after last year’s presidential elections.
“The Prosperous Armenia Party is facing difficult times, but a strong and viable political party is one that can overcome difficulties and continue the path with resolve to confront the serious problems facing the country. We have to understand that the problems of the state and people weren’t solved after this domestic political situation and weren’t even mitigated. Believe me when I say that Prosperous Armenia Party has a lot of work to do, and none of us has the moral right to turn around and leave,” said Zohrabyan in her speech at the party congress Thursday.
“I’m confident that our goal is to have a strong country and for its citizens to live a dignified life. To this end we’ll continue to work in parliament and outside… We have a lot to think about, analyze and draw conclusions,” said Zohrabyan. “We will overcome and resolve [our problems] only if we are united as one. I need your help, and I am certain that we’ll be able to reestablish the dialogue that was stopped and continue to work on solving the serious issues together.”