By Ruzanna Stepanian
The opposition candidate in a weekend local election in a Yerevan district blamed his pro-government rival on Friday for what he described as an overnight arson attack on his campaign headquarters.
Manuel Gasparian said an unknown assailant shattered an office window to throw in a Molotov cocktail early in the morning. The petrol bomb caused a fire in the premises, he said.
Gasparian is the main opposition challenger of Arayik Kotanjian, the incumbent mayor of Yerevan’s Kanaker-Zeytun district, in the election scheduled for Sunday. Kotanjian has been endorsed by the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), of which he is a member, while Gasparian enjoys the backing of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) of Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“I think the reason for the attack is the tense local election,” Gasparian told RFE/RL. When asked whether he believes Kotanjian had a hand in the incident, he said: “I can’t make presumptions. But I don’t have other enemies.”
Gasparian claimed that earlier this week two government loyalists broke into his main office to tear up placards posted there and intimidate his campaign staff.
The HAK has also endorsed opposition candidates in two other Yerevan districts that will elect their chief executives on Sunday. There have been no reported incidents of violence there.