By Emil Danielyan and Karine Simonian in Alaverdi
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian said on Friday that he will avoid an active involvement in his governing Republican Party’s election campaign dogged by opposition allegations of unfair play.
Sarkisian said he will spend the few weeks left before the May 12 parliamentary elections familiarizing himself with socioeconomic problems facing Armenia and its citizens.
“This is a new sphere for me, and I need to replace my ‘spectacles’ of a defense minister with those of a prime minister,” the formerly bespectacled premier told reporters after attending an official ceremony at an Armenian police division charged with drawing up the lists of the country’s 2.3 million eligible voters.
The division received 45 computers from the U.S. government to update and maintain the notoriously inaccurate voter registry in accordance with international standards. “This project was an essential step towards ensuring that all eligible Armenians are correctly registered so that they can help choose their country's leaders,” the U.S. charge d’affaires in Yerevan, Anthony Godfrey, said at the ceremony.
Unlike other major election contenders, Sarkisian and other leading members of the Republican Party (HHK) have yet to hold rallies and other campaign events. Sarkisian explained that the HHK, which is looking to retain the largest faction in parliament, does not need aggressive pre-election propaganda because it has been in government for seven years. He said he will therefore not campaign for the party “in a classical manner” and will instead tour the country primarily in his capacity as prime minister.
Sarkisian held one such meeting with residents of Alaverdi, a small industrial town in northern Armenia, on Saturday, one day before the official start of campaigning for the elections. He was clearly annoyed by their mood which remained somber and subdued after a minute of silence observed in memory of Andranik Markarian, the previous premier who died of a heart attack on March 25.
“You look as though something very sad happened,” Sarkisian told the audience, apparently referring to his appointment as prime minister. “I assure you that this is a good start for solving our socioeconomic problems.”