President Serzh Sarkisian pledged to increase the tax burden on the rich and crack down on dishonest business competition on Thursday as he continued to campaign for his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Speaking at a campaign rally in Yerevan’s western Malatia-Sebastia district, Sarkisian also reiterated his pledges to bolster the rule of law in the country. “Armenia will be a rule-of-law state in the foreseeable future,” he declared.
“We are changing the emphases of our economic policy,” the HHK leader said “We will continue to simplify tax administration. We will gradually shift the tax burden to large taxpayers. We will leave no anti-competition practice unpunished.”
“We have already started doing that,” he added before urging local residents to vote for Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s richest businessmen who is again running for parliament in a Malatia-Sebastia single-mandate constituency.
Aleskanian’s companies have long dominated imports of wheat, sugar and other foodstuffs to Armenia. Government critics have accused Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian of allowing the tycoon to effectively monopolize the lucrative business.
Aleksanian’s main challenger in the Malatia-Sebastia race is Nikol Pashinian, the outspoken editor of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). Earlier this month Pashinian challenged the media-shy tycoon to agree to a televised debate with him.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Aleksanian dismissed the offer. “Residents of our community can see me every day,” he said. “They don’t have to watch TV to see me.”