Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian rounded on Levon Ter-Petrosian on Friday the day after the opposition leader labelled him as one of Armenia’s most corrupt officials with extensive experience in vote rigging.
In an article that urged a fresh opposition push for regime change, Ter-Petrosian alleged that Abrahamian was appointed prime minister in April in order to enable the ruling regime to continue “plundering” the country and falsifying a constitutional referendum planned by President Serzh Sarkisian.
“In terms of vote rigging and plunder, Serzh Sarkisian does not need to worry as he could have hardly found a better candidate than Abrahamian for organizing that,” wrote the leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). He derided Sarkisian’s claims that Abrahamian is committed to badly needed reforms and has already fuelled expectations of positive change in the country.
Abrahamian hit back at Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, in remarks to Panorama.am. He said Ter-Petrosian’s article is full of “lies” and “bile.”
“Years ago he stepped off the pedestal of the former president of Armenia and is still unable to get back on it,” charged the premier. “The forefather of plunder of looking for plunder everywhere in order to further his petty interests. That’s shameful. That won’t work,” he added.
Abrahamian made a fortune and began his political career as mayor of the southern Armenian town of Artashat during Ter-Petrosian’s presidency. The latter was declared an honorary citizen of Artashat in 1996. Abrahamian and his extended family have held sway in the town and surrounding villages for the past two decades.
After Ter-Petrosian’s resignation in 1998, Abrahamian was promoted to senior government positions in Yerevan, becoming one of Armenia’s most influential figures. Underlining his clout is the fact that he has been Sarkisian’s and the ruling Republican Party’s campaign manager in national elections held over the past several years. All of those polls were marred by opposition and media allegations of serious fraud.
In particular, Abrahamian was Sarkisian’s campaign manager during the February 2008 presidential election in which Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition candidate. Ter-Petrosian’s team rejected the official results of that ballot as fraudulent, staging massive demonstrations in Yerevan. The authorities used lethal force to quell those protests.