By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Atom Markarian
President Robert Kocharian risked another opposition backlash on Tuesday when he accused one of his election challengers of exploiting the 1999 assassination of his famous brother, former Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, for political aims.
The remarks were clearly addressed to Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party and one of 11 presidential candidates. They came in response to a Kocharian campaign activist’s query about Sarkisian’s apparent efforts to implicate the president in the 1999 parliament bloodbath and the recent murder of state television chief Tigran Naghdalian.
A link between the two crimes has been claimed by Oleg Yunoshev, a Russian lawyer representing the Sarkisian family at the trial of the parliament attackers. Yunoshev alleges that Naghdalian was killed because he was a key witness in the parliament attack case.
However, a visibly irritated Kocharian shrugged off the claims, describing Yunoshev as a “tramp from Russia” who “doesn’t care about this country” and is only concerned with money. “His paymasters must realize that one does not contest elections with corpses,” he said. “It is inadmissible to seek political dividends from corpses.”
The comments infuriated supporters of the late prime minister as they watched them on television at the Hanrapetutyun offices in Yerevan. Sarkisian was also quick to condemn them.
Kocharian spoke at a meeting with more than 500 campaign activists on the first day of official campaigning for the February 19 polls. Confident of his victory, he told them to avoid using their sweeping government levers and rely only legal methods of political struggle. “We must try to make sure that our victory is fair and not questioned by anyone,” he said.
Kocharian also unveiled his election platform in which he pledges to create between 30,000 and 40,000 new jobs, promote free enterprise and improve public services in the event of his reelection. The incumbent also promises “international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination.”
(Photolur photo: Kocharian, left, opening his election campaign.)