The head of a coalition of Europe’s leading conservative parties has voiced strong support for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and predicted its victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In a video address to the HHK’s weekend congress in Yerevan, Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party (EPP), expressed confidence that the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian is genuinely committed to Armenia’s democratization and European integration.
“We accept you without reservations and with enthusiasm because we trust you,” Martens said, referring to Sarkisian. “We are proud of Armenia’s progress under your presidency.”
“In several weeks’ time you will win the parliamentary elections,” he said. “I have no doubts about that. And you will do that not for yourself or your party. You will do that for your country because Armenia needs continuity in the policy of reforms pursued by the Republican Party.”
Armenia’s opposition groups and other government critics will strongly disagree with the lavish praise from an organization that boasts Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party among its members. They have long accused Sarkisian of rigging elections, restricting civil liberties, controlling the judiciary and presiding over an oligarchic economic system.
The Armenian president and his party will insist, however, that they are committed to “European values.” “We consider ourselves to be Europeans,” Sarkisian told Martens in Yerevan two years ago.
Martens addressed the Yerevan congress less than a month after the EPP granted an observer status to the HHK and two other Armenian parties, one of them in opposition to the government. The EPP chief linked that development with Sarkisian’s pledge to make the May 6 parliamentary elections “exemplary.” “We bet that this commitment will be fulfilled,” he said.
“From now on we will go down the same path,” added the former Belgian prime minister. “It will certainly be full of tests and challenges. But rest assured that the EPP will wholeheartedly stand by you.”
“That path will also see success and electoral victories, and the EPP will associate itself with those victories with pride. And that should start within several weeks. Long live the Republican Party, long live Armenia!” concluded Martens.
Meanwhile, Russia’s President-Elect Vladimir Putin was far more cautious in welcoming the HHK congress in a written address read out by a representative of his United Russia Party. While noting the HHK’s “well-deserved trust by Armenia’s population,” Putin did not mention the upcoming Armenian elections.