The leader of Prosperous Armenia party, Gagik Tsarukyan, during the party’s special session on March 5 announced his decision to step down as Prosperous Armenia leader and leave politics for good. He recommended Naira Zohrabyan, the secretary of the party and member of the Prosperous Armenia parliamentary faction as a new leader, Civilnet.am reports. During the session, Tsarukyan said that despite the odds, they were successful in creating a powerful political party that had garnered the respect of people in and outside of Armenia. “Today, I have taken a decision to no longer be involved in politics, I am resigning as a party leader and parliamentarian. This has not been an easy decision, it is the result of lengthy reflection. This is my personal decision and I expect that you will understand,” Tsarukyan said and added that in all the years that he was involved in politics, he never pursued personal gain. “Throughout the years, I have pursued a simple, humane objective – to see smiles in the eyes of my people.” Tsarukyan appealed to his supporters, noting that he tried to find political solutions to all the problems the country was facing but he was never prepared to instigate a ‘maydan,’ and refused to take responsibility for any bloodshed that would invariably have followed massive protests. “I am leaving politics. I will no longer be a party leader. But I will continue to be of assistance to my country and my people. This will be realized in other spheres and areas. I will continue to build churches, schools, sports stadiums, to help artists and scientists in my country. But I will do this as an Armenian, as a citizen of Armenia, as Gagik Tsarukyan.” In conclusion, he requested the Prosperous Armenia members to no longer discuss politics with him, noting that he will not take part in any decision-making. Alexander Markarov, a political analyst and the director of CIS Countries Institute’s Armenian branch commented on the situation above, according to ARKA. As he noted, if Prosperous Armenia continues receiving this assistance, the party will be able to remain on the political arena. “But it, for sure, will have far less seats in the National Assembly and its influence on political processes will subside as well,” he said. Markarov said that if Tsarukyan stops providing financial assistance to Prosperous Armenia, the party members may join ordinary parties, which are many in Armenia, but they play absolutely no part in political processes. The expert believes that if so, Prosperous Armenia will be a party with its own voters, several well-known persons, but it will lose the votes it had in the last parliamentary elections, since electoral process is a money-consuming business. In February, discord between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Gagik Tsarukyan escalated. Speaking on February 12 at a meeting of the executive board of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, President Sargsyan lashed out at his former coalition partner describing him as ‘a scourge for the country who lacks intelligence, skills and education to govern Armenia.’ Sargsyan told Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan to instruct corresponding bodies to thoroughly investigate the veracity of “unverified reports” implicating Tsarukyan in large-scale tax evasion. In retaliation to Sargsyan’s crackdown, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party said the following day that the current situation in the country requires solution and 'the only solution is a complete change of power through extraordinary presidential elections.' Gagik Tsarukyan said also he was offered the post of president of the country but only after constitutional reforms that would turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic. He claimed that the reform is aimed at enabling Sargsyan to stay in power after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018. Tsarukyan said he declined the offer causing Sargsyan’s anger. Prosperous Armenia, Heritage party and the Armenian National Congress decided to stage a joint rally on February 20, but a little later the rally was canceled and Tsarukyan called on people to solve all their problems by peaceful means. Prosperous Armenia is the second largest force in the parliament controlling 36 of 131 parliamentary seats. It was part of coalition governments from 2007 to 2012. According to some estimates, Tsarukyan is the third-richest person of Armenia. On February 20, the party and its key allies, the Armenian National Congress and Heritage, plan to hold a joint rally in Yerevan to press for Sargsyan's ouster.