Leaders of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Thursday urged people in the central town of Hrazdan to vote for a prominent candidate representing the opposition bloc in this Sunday’s mayoral election.
They addressed more than two thousand people who gathered in Hrazdan’s central square for the last campaign rally held by Sasun Mikaelian, the head of the local HAK chapter. The HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, did not travel to the industrial town 40 kilometers north of Yerevan for the rally.
The weekend vote, which pits Mikaelian against the incumbent Mayor Aram Danielian, will be a major dress rehearsal for both the HAK and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) before parliamentary elections scheduled for May.
“The outcome of the Hrazdan elections depends on one person and that person is you,” Nikol Pashinian, a leading HAK figure, told the crowd that braved freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. “Sasun Mikaelian will be elected Hrazdan mayor,” he said.
Mikaelian, who served as the town’s mayor from 1996-1999, also sounded confident about his victory and again launched a scathing attack on Danielian and Kovalenko Shahgaldian, governor of Kotayk Province, of which Hrazdan is the capital. Both men are affiliated with the ruling HHK.
“I want to end the atmosphere of fear. I want to instill trust. I am here to tell you that this year will be a year of restoration of faith,” said the opposition candidate who was set free last May after spending more than three years in jail on what the HAK regards as politically motivated charges.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) earlier this week, Shahgaldian predicted that the HHK candidate will defeat Mikaelian, saying that the latter’s track record in office was poor. He also said that the local authorities will do their best to ensure that the election is free and fair.
The Mikaelian campaign claims, however, that the authorities are pressuring local public-sector employees to vote for the incumbent mayor and will try to rig the ballot.