Opposition candidate Paruyr Hayrikian indicated late on Friday that he expects a two-week postponement of Armenia’s February 18 presidential election because of the armed attack that left him seriously wounded.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Hayrikian also revealed details of the shooting that occurred outside his Yerevan home on Thursday night. He suggested that it might have been the work of unspecified “imperialist” forces in Russia.
Under the Armenian constitution, a presidential election must be postponed by two weeks if one of the candidates faces “insurmountable obstacles.” The constitution mandates the holding of a new election 40 days later if those obstacles are not eliminated during the two-week period.
“There are two options for postponing the election,” Hayrikian said. “One is [a delay of] 15 days, which I am forced to seek as I am unable [to campaign.] The other one is to organize new elections after another 40 days. I will strive to make sure that there are no extra 40 days because I too think that we are in the middle of the [electoral] process and we should complete it.”
Hayrikian said he discussed the matter with President Serzh Sarkisian when the latter visited him in hospital earlier in the day. “Those 15 days envisaged by law will automatically be enforced. Whether I like it or not, that will be the case,” he said.
Armenian officials have not ruled out the possibility of an election delay. The final decision on the matter has to be made by the Constitutional Court.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Hayrikian said that he saw a gunman who shot at him before being wounded in the shoulder at almost point-blank range. “I knew that he was about to shoot and tried to inhibit his movements … but a gunshot was fired,” he said, adding that he cried for help before a second gunshot that skimmed his body. The gunman then fled the scene.
“I thought that I’m dying and don’t have time to say my last prayer,” continued Hayrikian. “I said my [possibly] last prayer right before today’s surgery.”
Asked who he thinks was behind the attack, Hayrikian said, “I must say frankly that in the first instance I suspect the secret service of a foreign state that persecuted me for many years. Not this Russian state but the previous one.”
Hayrikian, who spent more than a decade in Soviet prisons for campaigning for Armenia’s independence, pointed to his recent pronouncements in support of European integration. “I said that we will go to Europe and Europe is our future,” he said. “We have received more damage than benefits from imperialist Russia. But a truly democratic Russia is naturally our ally.”
“I think that when I stressed this recently I activated some forces … I presume that this is connected with [the shooting] because I have no personal enemies,” said Hayrikian. He did not name those forces, however.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday, the day before the shooting, Hayrikian said that Armenia must not forge closer links with Russia at the expense of its integration with the European Union.
The 63-year-old politician leads a small opposition party called the National Self-Determination Union. He joined the Armenian presidential race after spending more than a decade on the political sidelines. Few observers expected him to mount a serious challenge to President Serzh Sarkisian.
“My only wish now is that people worried about me know that I am fine and will continue working the way I always worked,” Hayrikian said on Friday.