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By Astghik Bedevian
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian has assigned a regional governor notorious for suppression of dissent to manage the election campaign of his equally controversial brother Aleksandr, it emerged on Friday.

The move suggests that Sarkisian is ready to go to great lengths in ensuring that his brother wins the May 12 election in a single-member constituency in the southeastern Syunik region. The constituency encompasses the local town of Goris and nearby villages, an area considered a de facto fiefdom of Surik Khachatrian, the Syunik governor.

The vote there promises to be extremely tense given the fact that Aleksandr “Sashik” Sarkisian is challenged by Samvel Babayan, the once powerful ex-commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army. Babayan warned last year that he and his Dashink (Alliance) party would not hesitate to use force against anyone attempting to steal votes from them.

Khachatrian, better known as “Liska,” was chosen as Sarkisian’s campaign manager just days after being accused of bullying a prominent opposition politician, Vazgen Manukian, who toured Syunik last week in an apparent bid to boost Babayan’s electoral chances.

The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), of which the Sarkisian brothers are senior members, has refused to investigate Manukian’s allegations. “I don’t know what you think, but the governor too is a citizen of Armenia affiliated with the Republican Party,” the HHK’s parliamentary leader, Galust Sahakian, told a news briefing. “So there is nothing wrong with [Khachatrian’s appointment.]”

A party spokesman told RFE/RL that Khachatrian is also likely to be appointed as the entire HHK’s campaign manager in Syunik.

(Photolur photo: Surik Khachatrian.)
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