Arayik Harutyunyan campaigning in Mardakert on March 20, 2020. Video image grab.

Arayik Harutyunyan, Artsakh’s former prime minister (2007-18) and one of the presumptive favorites in presidential race, received the endorsement of one of Armenia’s most prominent businessmen Ruben Vardanyan.

“I’ve known Ara for over 15 years and was always impressed by his knowledge and ability to identify and resolve problems,” Vardanyan said in a specially recorded message. “It is easy to work with him, since for him keeping his word is very important.”

Harutyunyan also leads the Free Fatherland Party that has the largest faction in the outgoing National Assembly of NKR. Harutyunyan is believed to have the highest rating of current presidential candidates, with support for him estimated at between one-quarter and one-third of all voters.

Vardanyan is best known for establishing Ameria Bank, one of the largest Armenian financial institutions, and creating a number of educational, infrastructure and philanthropic projects, most notably the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. In 2016, he gave strong backing to then newly-appointed prime minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan, who resigned amid Spring 2018 protests.