Armenian president launches probe into former coalition partner

By bne IntelliNews February 17, 2015

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A bitter conflict has erupted between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Gagik Tsaryan, one of the country’s richest men and leader of the second largest party in parliament, Prosperous Armenia (BHK). On February 13 Arka news agency reported that Sargsyan had signed a decree expelling Tsaryan from the National Security Council, a government advisory panel on national security. He also ordered authorities to investigate Tsaryan for alleged tax-dodging and failure to attend parliamentary sessions.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan has ordered a scrutiny into Tsaryan’s charitable activity, on suspicion of it being used to cover up tax evasion, Arka news agency reported on February 16 citing Abrahamyan’s office. On February 14 Tsaryan was also dismissed from the post of chairman of the board of the Armenian State Institute of Physical Training under a decree issued by the prime minister. 

Tsaryan, in turn, accused Sarkisyan of trying to punish him over his refusal to back a constitutional reform that would allow the president to remain Armenia's leader beyond 2018 when his current term ends.

According to Azatutyun.am, on February 12 during a meeting of senior members of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Sarkisyan lashed out at his former coalition partner and labelled him an "ignorant" and "illiterate" man, according to the news agency, and effectively called for his exclusion from the political process.

Since the fallout, Tsaryan, a former supporter of Sarkisyan, met the leaders of other Armenian opposition parties to discuss a joint strategy and called for citizens to demand the president's resignation. BHK is the second largest force in parliament with 36 seats and it was part of coalition governments from 2007 to 2012. 

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