President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday urged residents of the central Kotayk province to vote for his coalition partner Gagik Tsarukian who is running for reelection to parliament in a local single-mandate constituency.
Tsarukian is the sole candidate in the district encompassing the town of Abovian and nearby villages, in addition to topping the list of his Prosperous Armenia Party’s candidates nominated under the system of proportional representation. He has long held sway in the area north of Yerevan.
“Naturally, in [single-mandate] places where we nominated no candidates we support our coalition partners,” Sarkisian told a campaign rally in Abovian organized by his Republican Party of Armenia (BHK). “Here we support Mr. Gagik Tsarukian’s candidacy. I am calling on all of you to vote for our candidates.”
Relations between the two governing parties have been increasingly frosty since Tsarukian pointedly declined to reaffirm support last September for the incumbent president’s reelection plans. Some observers now view Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia (BHK) as the HHK’s most serious election rival.
In his speech, Sarkisian seemed to allude to the BHK’s strong positions in Kotayk. “I realize that political struggle in Kotayk is heated,” he said. “I realize that many people have already made up their mind. Nevertheless, I am calling on you to vote in good faith, to vote in a way that will make you like your own vote.”
Some senior BHK figures, notably former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, have repeatedly criticized Sarkisian’s track record in power during the election campaign. HHK representatives have rebutted those attacks and accused the BHK of populism.
Speaking in a smaller Kotayk town, Charentsavan, later in the day, Sarkisian insisted that his administration is not using Armenia’s security apparatus for electoral purposes. “A policeman, a prosecutor, and a representative of a law-enforcement body are not subordinate to the Republican Party,” he said. “They are all servants of the people of Armenia.”
“Let us jointly strengthen the independence and capacity of those bodies. Let us jointly oversee those bodies,” added the president.
Tsarukian, meanwhile, campaigned on Wednesday in towns and villages west of Yerevan, again accusing unnamed local government officials of pressuring Armenians to vote for “one or another party.”
“They are forcing the people to vote for a particular party in order to secure their positions,” the BHK leader said at a rally in the village of Karpi. “If they don’t earn enough votes they will lose their current and future jobs.”
When asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service to specify who those officials are, he said, “They are regional governors, town mayors, village mayors, government officials.”
The vast majority of such officials are affiliated or otherwise linked with the HHK.