By Astghik Bedevian
Tensions continued to run high in an electoral district just south of Yerevan on Monday despite the highly controversial disqualification of the two main challengers of the local government-backed candidate.
Police in the constituency covering the town of Echmiadzin and nearby villages arrested at the weekend an aide to Hakob Hakobian, one of the two disqualified candidate who has represented the area in the Armenian parliament for almost eight years.
The aide, Nshan Aslanian, was charged with kidnapping and bullying the father of one of local residents who accused Hakobian of forging their signature to secure registration with the district election commission. A court in Echmiadzin used their testimony to bar Hakobian from running for the parliament. It disqualified the second candidate, Susanna Harutiunian, on similar grounds.
Hakobian was also charged with kidnapping but has not been put under arrest so far. He on Monday again denied the accusations, saying that they were fabricated at the best of his rival, the recently retired army General Seyran Saroyan. The latter is backed by the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
“Seyran Saroyan is a coward who is having people arrested for nothing,” Hakobian told RFE/RL. “And he says he is a good fellow. People can now see if he’s really a good fellow.” The controversial businessman had earlier accused the local authorities and police of harassing his supporters.
Saroyan, whose victory in the election now seems a forgone conclusion, refused a comment when contacted by RFE/RL.
Tension in Echmiadzin rose earlier this month after unknown assailants reportedly opened fire on Hakobian’s empty car and burned down Harutiunian’s campaign headquarters. Both candidates blamed the attacks on Saroyan. But the feared general vehemently denied any involvement.