The Central Election Commission (CEC) urged opposition presidential candidate Andreas Ghukasian to end his hunger strike that entered its 18th day on Friday.
In a written statement, the CEC said Ghukasian should stop the extreme protest to avoid a further deterioration of his condition. Its chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, expressed serious concern about his health in separate comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Ghukasian, a political commentator running a private radio station, has been camped outside the National Academy of Sciences building in central Yerevan since the official start of campaigning for the February 18 presidential election. He is demanding that President Serzh Sarkisian be barred from seeking reelection, accusing the incumbent of rigging previous Armenian elections. He also wants international organizations to stop monitoring the upcoming vote.
The CEC statement also urged the Armenian Ministry of Health to officially discuss Ghukasian’s current condition and deliver a “professional opinion” on it. Health Minister Derenik Dumanian visited the presidential hopeful later in the day.
Physicians already examined Ghukasian and recommended his hospitalization on Wednesday, but he refused to go to a hospital. An ambulance has since been on standby near the site of the protest.
Ghukasian’s camapaign manager, Armen Grigorian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the candidate, who was little-known until recently, will continue the hunger strike until election day. A visibly frail Ghukasian is not talking to journalists anymore.
Ghukasian insists that Sarkisian must be disqualified from the race because he leads a political force with a long history of vote rigging. The 42-year-old has said he also hopes that his protest will help to end what he sees as widespread public apathy about politics.