A municipal councilor from a small town near Yerevan underwent surgery on Friday after being injured in what some local politicians described as a clash between election campaign activists of Armenia’s two main governing parties.
Karen Tonoyan, a member of the municipal council of Masis, suffered a fractured skull and was rushed to a local hospital late on Thursday after a brawl that reportedly involved two groups of men. According to local residents, he is an activist of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
The Armenian police said Tonoyan was attacked outside a café located near the BHK office in Masis. A police spokesman gave no details of the incident, saying that an investigation is underway.
Some news reports described the incident as a violent dispute between local election activists of the BHK and its senior partner in the governing coalition, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Murad Muradian, an HHK candidate running for parliament in a local single-mandate constituency, confirmed that. He said that several HHK members were attacked by a much larger number of BHK-linked men as they left the café late in the evening.
“The situation is very tense, and many people are acting beyond all limits,” Muradian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), pointing the finger at the BHK. “I am doing everything to restrain our supporters,” he said.
Masis Mayor Dmitry Nazarian, a BHK member, also effectively linked the incident with Sunday’s parliamentary elections. “We have tried to make [the election campaign] fair and good in order to avoid such things but, as you can see, tensions lead to such things,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
However, Naira Zohrabian, a BHK leader in Yerevan, denied political factors behind the violence. “According to our information, there were no political reasons for the incident,” she said. “It was just an incident between individuals.”
Tonoyan was transferred to a hospital in Yerevan and underwent skull surgery there on Friday. He could not be reached for comment.
Violent clashes between HHK and BHK activists have not been uncommon during the current and previous parliamentary races. One such incident was reported from Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri last month.