The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Tuesday denied responsibility for a series of violent attacks widely attributed to the ongoing parliamentary election campaign.
The Armenian media has reported about a dozen instances of election-related violence to date. In practically all of those cases, HHK-linked individuals allegedly clashed with each other or beat up, stabbed and even shot representatives of other parties and blocs.
“The Republican Party has not been involved [in violence] in any place,” claimed Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman. “The Republican Party has repeatedly stated that we will seek strict legal punishments for those individuals who will flout the Electoral Code during the election campaign.”
“There are 1,200 election candidates in this process,” Sharmazanov said. “Each of them has relatives, friends or supporters, and there is no need to link every escalation or minor incident to the HHK. Such things happen in all countries.”
Artur Sakunts, a human rights campaigner, dismissed these assurances, saying that virtually all violent incidents were the work of HHK loyalists enjoying impunity. “Those responsible for such violations have for years not been brought to justice,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “And it’s not accidental that they are government representatives or individuals sponsored by the government.”
So far law-enforcement authorities have opened only three criminal cases in connection with those incidents.
One of those cases stems from the stabbing of two men late on Sunday. One of them, Aram Asatrian, runs the election campaign office of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s bloc in the central Armenian village of Kuchak.
Asatrian remained in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Yerevan on Tuesday. A senior doctor there, Hayk Antonian, described his condition as “stable” but said he risks losing one of his kidneys.
Asatrian’s mother insisted that the attack on her son and one of his friends was related to the April 2 elections. A representative of the Tsarukian Bloc went further, saying that it was carried out by HHK loyalists.
But Kuchak’s Republican mayor, Hovik Amirian, denied any connection between the stabbing and the parliamentary race. Armenia’s Investigative Committee similarly claimed that it was the result of a dispute on unspecified “minor issues.” The law-enforcement agency did not arrest or identify the presumed attackers.