President Serzh Sarkisian rounded on one of his main election challengers, Raffi Hovannisian, on Monday for depicting Armenia’s presidential election as a crucial battle between “good and evil.”
Campaigning in Yerevan’s Nubarashen suburb, Sarkisian also denounced the opposition leader for pledging to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state if elected president.
Hovannisian made the comments during a weekend campaign trip Armenia’s second city of Gyumri. He told local residents that the ongoing presidential race involves not political groups and individuals but “good” versus “evil.”
A visibly irritated Sarkisian declared that such a characterization risks dividing the nation into mutually antagonistic camps. “When will those people understand that this country is simply sick and tired of such divisions?” he said.
“I wonder what is evil, according to him. On the other hand, is he the one who decides what is good and what is evil?” he told a Nubarashen crowd that included schoolteachers, civil servants and even employees of a local psychiatric clinic.
The incumbent president went on to condemn Hovannisian’s calls for Karabakh’s de jure recognition by Armenia. “As if he is crazy for Karabakh,” he scoffed. “Do you understand what recognizing Karabakh would mean? There cannot be a more irresponsible adventure at this point. And this is said by a person who is portraying himself as a big foreign policy expert.”
Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party drafted a bill on Karabakh’s recognition and tried to push it through the Armenian parliament last year. The bill was blocked by the parliament majority loyal to Sarkisian.
Sarkisian has until now avoided attacking his election opponents on the campaign trail. What is more, he heaped praised on Hovannisian and two other major opposition presidential candidates as recently as on February 5. In particular, he called the Zharangutyun leader “a symbol of the patriot fighting against unacceptable practices.”