Two young men from the southern Armenian town of Armavir were seriously injured and hospitalized on Friday following a brawl which local residents linked with next month’s parliamentary elections.
Some of them pointed the finger at Aleksan Petrosian, a wealthy businessman and parliament deputy running for reelection on the ruling Republican Party’s ticket. Aides to Petrosian denied any involvement, though.
According to the Armenian police and the Office of the Prosecutor-General, the violent incident occurred at the cemetery of a village close to Armavir early in the morning. Both law-enforcement bodies refused to give any details, saying only that a criminal investigation is underway and that no arrests have been made yet.
Some Armavir residents attributed the clash to the May 6 election in a local single-mandate constituency which is currently represented in the Armenian parliament by Petrosian. He is challenged by independent candidate Meruzhan Mkhoyan and Sedrak Hovannisian, a local leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress.
A young woman who presented herself as Mkhoyan’s niece claimed that the candidate was dragged away from his house and forcibly driven to the cemetery before his relatives and friends rushed to his aid.
“They took him to the cemetery and beat him up,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They demanded that he withdraw his candidacy so that Alik [Petrosian] gets elected.”
The woman spoke near Mkhoyan’s Armavir house that was surrounded by dozens of men, apparently his supporters. They did not confirm her account and refused to let journalists enter the house and interview family members.
Mkhoyan’s whereabouts were not known. He did not answer phone calls throughout the day.
It was thus not clear if he is connected with the two men that required hospitalization after the violent clash. One of them, identified by the police as Arnak Kurghinian, suffered a fractured skull and had to be transferred from an Armavir hospital to a medical center in Yerevan. A doctor there said he was questioned by police investigators.
Meanwhile, Petrosian’s campaign manager, Levon Khorozian, insisted that neither the businessman nor any member of his reelection team was involved in the cemetery fight. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Khorozian also claimed that the Petrosian campaign never regarded Mkhoyan as a serious challenger.
A parliament deputy since 2003, Petrosian, 56, and his family own one of Armenia’s leading liquor companies. He was previously elected to the National Assembly on the party-list basis.