Hundreds of supporters of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) demonstrated in central Yerevan on Tuesday in a May Day celebration that attracted a rare media spotlight for its election campaign.
Holding red flags and banners, they marched through the city’s main Republic Square that was once dominated by a huge statue of the Soviet Union’s Communist founder Vladimir Lenin. The procession ended in a nearby park where HKK leaders addressed the mostly elderly and teenage crowd on the occasion.
The party’s first secretary, Ruben Tovmasian, also mentioned the upcoming parliamentary elections in his speech. An HKK appeal to the nation read out by another Communist leader, urged Armenians to vote for the party, saying that only the HKK can guarantee employment and worker rights.
The HKK was a major political force in the 1990s, winning roughly 10 percent of the vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. However, it failed to gain parliament seats in 2003 and has not been represented in the National Assembly since then. Few observers believe that it can garner at least 5 percent of votes needed for entering the next assembly.
Tovmasian said, however, that the Communist can count on at least 15 percent support if Sunday’s elections are free and fair. “When I talk to voters I see how they are being revived,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They straighten their backs and have their eyes shine again. They have great faith in the HKK.”
Elderly and middle-aged Armenians nostalgic about their more prosperous Soviet past remain the party’s principal support base. Hundreds of them travelled to Yerevan from various parts of the country to attend the May Day demonstration.
Ashot Voskanian, 86, came from Masis, a small town 20 kilometers south of the capital. “Now most of my pension is spent doctors,” he said grimly.
“The Communist system will return and restore the people’s property. We won’t have the super rich and the super rich anymore,” said another man who leads the HKK chapter in another southern town, Artashat.
Many party veterans marched with their grandchildren wearing Soviet-era red neckties. “He is growing up as a future Communist,” one pensioner told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, proudly pointing to his 4-year-old grandson. “He is getting that kind of upbringing.”
Hovannes Manukian, a 31-year-old Yerevan resident, claimed to have joined the party when he was only 16. “Our family suffered under the Communists,” he said. “But I don’t think that certain negative things must be decisive. The bottom line is that socialism is the only way to go and there is no other party in Armenia that favors that path.”