President Serzh Sarkisian urged Armenians on Friday to make national security and defense the main criterion for backing a political party or bloc in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
Sarkisian emphasized his long security experience in the context of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as he spoke at an indoor rally in Yerevan that concluded the election campaign of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The outcome of the vote holds “the key to new armaments and military hardware, new defense fortifications and effective schemes of troop deployment,” he said.
“Choosing a ballot [on election day] means choosing who and how will solve our number one issue: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he told thousands of HHK supporters. “[It means determining] who will ensure, through peace negotiations, that Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status is decided by Artsakh’s population -- a principle which we will never abandon.”
He implied that a popular vote for the HHK would also amount to supporting the U.S., Russian and French mediators’ “efforts to advance the peace process aimed at achieving a just solution.”
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group have been seeking a compromise settlement that would require Armenian withdrawal from virtually all districts around Karabakh. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would be able to determine the territory’s internationally recognized status in a future referendum.
“Based on the nature of this event, I was supposed to urge you at this moment to vote for the Republican Party of Armenia,” Sarkisian went on. “But I will not. I will say choose whomever you want but remember that living well is possible only through a lasting and diligent work. I will say choose whomever you want but remember the mothers who have sent their sons to the Army, and whose every heartbeat is counting the seconds of their sons’ safe duty.”
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, who has led the ruling party’s election campaign, also spoke at the rally. “Trust us, our team, the Republican Party of Armenia,” he said.
Karapetian has focused on economic issues during his nationwide campaign trips, promising economic betterment and wide-ranging reforms. He has specifically stood by his cabinet’s pledges to attract billions of dollars in badly needed investments in the Armenian economy.
Opposition parties and blocs running for parliament have dismissed these pledges during the election campaign. They have said that the HHK has mismanaged the country and must be removed from power.