Armenian business tycoon goes back on vow to run in parliamentary elections

By bne IntelliNews November 23, 2016

Ara Abrahamyan, a Russia-based Armenian business tycoon, has announced that he will not be running in the country's parliamentary elections in 2017, going back on his earlier word, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on November 22.

Abrahamian is the founder of the powerful diaspora organisation Union of Armenians of Russia, and expressed his political ambitions in an interview in October 2015 to found his own party and run in the parliamentary elections. His announcement fuelled speculations that President Serzh Sargsyan was using the oligarch in order to steal votes from the “real opposition”, a common criticism in Armenia, where disenchanted voters have little trust in politics and politicians.

Abrahamian, 59, changed his tune on November 22, saying that he had to tend to health problems instead.

The close ties between politics and business oligarchs in Armenia is one of the main problems that the Armenian government has to tackle in order to combat corruption and tax evasion. Operating as cartels that control commodity trade, vested business interests have long benefitted from their political connections and, in the last decade or so, business oligarchs have begun to enter politics to gain status and recognition.

Newly appointed in September, Karen Karapetyan, Armenia's new prime minister, has vowed to crack down on corruption and has so far devised a bill to criminalise corruption among high-ranking officials. 

According to Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, the government through its anti-trust agency has begun to investigate one of the country's sugar oligarchs, Samvel Alevanyan, whose supermarket chain - Yerevan-CITY - has reportedly sold sugar at artificially inflated prices over the past year. The same agency reportedly fined the monopolist that controls beer production in Armenia, Yerevan Beer Company, AMD110mn (€216,000) for the same reason.

However, Karapetyan's critics contend that his reform drive will be short-lived, and is meant to boost the ruling Republican Party's chances at the polls in the parliamentary elections that will be held in the spring of 2017. 

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