President Serzh Sarkisian pledged to strengthen the rule of law and create thousands of new jobs as he launched the parliamentary election campaign of his Republican Party (HHK) with rallies held in Yerevan’s southern suburbs on Tuesday.
Sarkisian was only accompanied by Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian and another prominent HHK member as he arrived at his party’s first pre-election gathering held in the Erebuni district.
“Major steps have been and are being taken towards becoming a rule-of-law state,” he told several thousand people rallying there. “They will reverberate with all their vigor later on.”
“Considering vicious mores that took root [in Armenia] for decades, that is a difficult task indeed,” Sarkisian said. “I’m not denying that. But [give me] several years and together we will ensure a totally different level of justice for every citizen of the Republic of Armenia.”
Sarkisian went on to defend his and his party’s economic track record, reiterating that they saved the country from big economic “shocks” during the 2009 global recession. “However, we have not managed to ensure the kind of economic growth that would have had considerable and tangible effects on the general population,” he said. “But today we are already in a position to successfully attain the goal of creating thousand of new jobs.”
“[Give me] several years and together we will ensure a substantially greater direct impact of a growing economy on everyone’s welfare,” added the HHK later.
The economic situation was the central theme of campaign speeches that were delivered earlier in the day by Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s junior partner in the governing coalition. Campaigning in Armenia’s central Kotayk province, Tsarukian urged voters not to trust in large-scale job creation promised by other election contenders.
“Our people deserve to live well and have jobs,” Tsarukian told a rally held in the town of Yeghvard. “The new jobs that they are talking about … nobody can create that many jobs. Those who say that are lying.”
The BHK leader, who is one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, said that the government should simply make it easier for unemployed Armenians to set up and operate small businesses. Supporting small and medium-sized enterprises must be its chief economic priority, he said.
Tsarukian openly criticized the HHK-led government’s economic policies at a recent BHK congress in Yerevan. He specifically disapproved of its response to the 2009 recession.
“Many of them will come and present various programs and fairy tales once in five years,” the tycoon said on Tuesday of other, unspecified election candidates. “But none of them will ever be able to say Tsarukian promised something but didn’t turn that promise into reality.”