Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to “grab by the throat,” “throw to the ground” and jail loyalists of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) who would try to pressure voters ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.
Pashinian stepped up his verbal attacks on the party led by his predecessor Serzh Sarkisian as he toured the northern Lori province on the second day of campaigning for the December 9 polls.
“Where are the Republican village mayors who bully their villagers in connection with the elections or anything else?” he said at a campaign rally held in the town of Spitak. “I say to those village mayors: be aware that I personally will visit you, grab you by the throat and throw you out of your offices.”
“Are there people in this country who dare to bully citizens? I will force all of you to lie on the ground. Who are they? Which Republicans? Which oligarchs? Which burly men? I will force all of you to lie on the ground and you won’t get off the ground for years.”
Pashinian went on to order the Armenian police to deal with HHK-linked “criminal elements” in a similar fashion. “Who do you think you are?” he said, appealing to those elements. “Tell me your names. You must not come out of your holes. You must not walk in the country’s streets. Your place is in prison and you all -- criminals, plunderers and scoundrels -- will end up in prison.”
Pashinian did not name any village chiefs or other individuals allegedly trying to earn the HHK voters with illicit methods. Sarkisian’s party, which was forced out of power more than six months ago, has been the main target of his harsh verbal attacks on his critics launched on the campaign trail.
The HHK condemned Pashinian’s “hate speech” and “threats against elected officials” in a statement released by its campaign headquarters later on Tuesday.
“Such behavior is unprecedented for our political culture, especially on the part of … the prime minister bearing responsible for our security and well-being,” said the statement.
The HHK urged Armenia’s Central Election Commission, human rights ombudsman and foreign election observers to pay “attention” to Pashinian’s pre-election rhetoric.
The HHK won the last parliamentary elections held in April 2017. But it is now fighting to remain represented in the National Assembly.
Pashinian reacted furiously after HHK figures and other critics condemned one of his close associates, Sasun Mikaelian, for saying on Monday that the success of this spring’s “velvet revolution” was more important than the Armenian victory in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. He accused his political opponents of deliberately misinterpreting Mikaelian’s statement which he portrayed as a slip of the tongue.