By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian emphasized on Saturday the need for continued political stability in Armenia as he appealed to voters to keep him in office for another five-year term.
“Without stability, without a normal political situation it would not make sense to speak of economic betterment,” he told about a thousand supporters in Yerevan. “Stability must be at the heart of everything. I will not get tired of saying this.”
Again mentioning last year’s nearly 13 percent GDP growth, Kocharian said he has succeeded in alleviating hardships suffered by most Armenians and needs five more years to complete economic recovery. “I assure that we can have the same results in the next five years if you, of course, give me your vote of confidence,” he said during a campaign trip to the city’s northern Arabkir district.
Socioeconomic issues figure prominently in Kocharian’s reelection platform. He promises, among other things, to create at least 30,000 new jobs each year and improve public services. Over the last two years, the incumbent has sought to cast himself as an efficient economic administrator, frequently visiting functioning factories and other successful businesses.
On Saturday he visited Arabkir’s famous aluminum plant that employed thousands people before the Soviet collapse. The company, now called Armenal, stood idle for much of the 1990s before being privatized two years ago by Russia’s Russky Alyuminii group, the world’s second largest manufacturer of the non-ferrous metal. Armenal has since been gradually increasingly its production and is expected to export $40 million worth of aluminum foil to Western markets this year.
“Dozens of factories have begun to work, and I declare with all the responsibility that no functioning [large] enterprise has been shut down or plundered in the last five years,” Kocharian said. “We can have such a growth every year.”
Opposition candidates, however, insist that the official figures often cited by Kocharian are grossly inflated and do not reflect the real situation on the ground. They accuse the president and his inner circle, including Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, of controlling most lucrative sectors of the Armenian economy.
Kocharian, on the other hand, says his opponents’ campaign discourse is short on specifics and does not offer a credible alternative to his regime.
(Photolur photo: Kocharian campaigning in the southern Ararat province Friday.)