By Karine Kalantarian
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian cautioned against excessive socioeconomic expectations from his governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) as he took its well-funded election campaign to the southern Ararat region on Tuesday.
“We are a realistic party,” Sarkisian told a campaign rally in Vedi, a small local town close to the Turkish border. “We are a realistic government. That is why we don’t and won’t give excessive promises.”
“In 2003, we didn’t give any promises here. We just promised to work and be attentive to various problems,” he said, referring to the last parliamentary elections that were controversially won by the HHK. The economic situation in the country will continue to improve if the HHK repeats that success in next week’s elections, he added.
Local residents’ dissatisfaction with that situation showed during a brief question-and-question session that followed Sarkisian’s speech at the outdoor gathering. “We are asking you to provide financial assistance to rebuilding our streets,” one man said, contradicting Vedi Mayor Varuzhan Barseghian’s assurances that the town is now much better shape than it was four years ago.
Another participant of the meeting asked the Armenian premier to help restore natural gas supplies to his neighborhood. Sarkisian promised to instruct government officials to look into the matter.
As was the case with the HHK campaign in other parts of Armenia, local authorities had a direct involvement in the event, mobilizing public sector employees and even school students. In Vedi, schoolchildren were handed white HHK flags to greet the high-ranking visitor.
For some local people, it was also an opportunity to relay their grievances to Sarkisian. “I’ve just come to hand him a letter,” said one elderly man. “Nobody else has come here willingly.”
The HHK campaign rally in the nearby town of Masis was attended not only by local residents but also people from nearby villages that were bused to the town free of charge. The buses were provided by an HHK candidate in the local single-member constituency. The villagers insisted that they were not forced to attend the event.