YEREVAN—The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA)—headed by former Armenian President, turned-Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian—lost its parliamentary majority in Armenia’s National Assembly on Wednesday, after controversial businessman Samvel Aleksanyan left the RPA faction.
The news about Aleksanyan’s exit—which reduced the number of RPA seats to 52—was confirmed by the RPA’s parliamentary head Vahram Baghdasarian. The Republicans held a total of 58 seats before Sarkisian’s resignation as the country’s prime minister on April 23, after weeks of protests and demonstrations by the public.
The news of Aleksanyan’s departure from the RPA faction came a week after it was announced that his family-owned Yerevan City supermarket chain was being accused of and investigated for large-scale tax evasion by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). Though Aleksanyan—widely known as “Lfik Samo” has not commented on the allegations, key figures of Yerevan City and several other supermarkets also accused of fraud, released a joint statement claiming that they were allowed not to pay several taxes by the country’s previous administration, in order to keep food prices low and warned that the NSS’ investigation could risk the future of their operations.
Aleksanyan, who himself is not an RPA member but has been a part of the RPA faction in parliament since 2003, has been marred by controversy over the years, specifically in regards to his businesses and shady trade practices. He is believed to be one of the richest people in the country, who has had a stronghold on the imports of sugar, cooking oil, wheat, and other food products.