Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian grappled with widespread voter apathy and cynicism as he took his Yelk alliance’s election campaign to Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district on Friday.
Joined by young Yelk activists, Pashinian walked through local neighborhoods, handing out campaign booklets and urging voters living there to back Yelk in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
“We have come here to tell you that there is a way out of the depressive crisis that has plagued Armenia,” he said through a megaphone, evoking the name of the bloc meaning “way out.”
Many local residents were unconvinced. “I don’t believe anyone, I’ve lost faith,” said one woman, who claimed to have voted for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in the last elections.
“Look at the entrance to our apartment block,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Water leaks through the window into my room and my kid is sick.”
Another voter, a man, said he will not even bother to read the Yelk booklet handed to him “because it’s not interesting.” “I don’t trust anyone,” he said.
“Everyone promises but does nothing,” agreed one of his neighbors.
But not all Erebuni residents were so skeptical. “I trust in Edmon [Marukian] and Nikol and nobody else,” one middle-aged man said, referring to two of Yelk’s three top leaders.
The bloc comprises Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, Marukian’s Bright Armenia party and the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party of Aram Sarkisian, a veteran politician who had served as prime minister in 1999-2000. In a joint declaration adopted in December, they said they will strive for a “European model of democratic, rule-of-law and social state” in Armenia.
Pashinian, 41, seemed undaunted by the gloomy mood in Erebuni, persistently appealing to locals to spurn vote bribes offered by the HHK and vote against the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian in the April 2 polls.
“Despair is tantamount to a vote for the Republican Party,” said the outspoken former journalist. “When we say to the people ‘do not to despair’ we mean ‘do not vote for the Republican Party.’”
Pashinian also expressed confidence that the Yelk campaign will generate greater popular interest over time.
The ruling HHK has long swept elections in Erebuni thanks to the personal influence of several government-linked and controversial wealthy individuals pulling the strings in the largely blue-collar area. They were widely blamed for electoral fraud and violence in local polling stations reported in the past.
Several influential HHK figures are running on an individual basis in a large electoral district encompassing Erebuni and nearby Yerevan communities. Yelk’s main candidate in that district, Alen Simonian, sounded bullish about taking on them.
“I’m not afraid of anyone and they have always known that,” Simonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) as he campaigned with Pashinian. He claimed that Erebuni will earn his bloc at least two seats in the next parliament.