Kocharian and senior members of the Hayastan alliance toured central Kotayk province on the fifth day of official campaigning for the snap elections in which they will be one of the ruling Civil Contract party’s main challengers.
“We are coming to restore security,” Kocharian said at a campaign rally held in the town of Abovian. “We are coming to strengthen our borders. We are coming to restore and deepen relations with allied states.”
“We are coming to ensure an economic upswing. We are coming to fight against unemployment, emigration and poverty,” he said, adding that a new Armenian government led by him would attract large-scale investments and help to create “tens of thousands of new jobs each year.”
Kocharian has repeatedly touted his economic track record on the campaign trail, arguing that the Armenian economy grew at double digit rates during much of his 1998-2008 rule. He has also said that he would use his personal relations with Russian leaders and President Vladimir Putin in particular to boost Armenia’s national security seriously weakened by last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Russian Sputnik news agency reported earlier this week that Putin and Kocharian again spoke by phone when the latter visited Moscow late last month. A spokesman for the ex-president confirmed the “lengthy phone call,” saying that the two men discussed Russian-Armenian relations and the security situation in the region.
Russia has criticized criminal proceedings that were launched against Kocharian shortly after Armenia’s 2018 “velvet revolution.” Putin has repeatedly made a point of congratulating him on his birthday anniversaries and praising his legacy.
Kocharian campaigned in the Kotayk towns of Yeghvard and Nor Hachn earlier on Friday, holding indoor meetings with local residents. Some of them were able to ask him questions.
One voter wondered if Kocharian’s possible return to power would restore impunity which was enjoyed by government-linked and wealthy individuals under Armenia’s former rulers.
The 66-year-old ex-president acknowledged that various abuses committed by them were widespread and said he “will not allow such practices” if he succeeds in unseating Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
He also said: “Have you ever heard about by any act of impudence by a member of my family or my other relatives? If my loved ones don’t do that, who else would do that?”
Kocharian went on to stress in this regard that he is not responsible for the policies of his successor and erstwhile ally Serzh Sarkisian, who was toppled in the 2018 uprising.
“After 2008 I had no ties to the authorities,” he said. “From 2009 through 2018 I didn’t even have contacts [with the Sarkisian administration] because there were many things with which I disagreed.”
Sarkisian now leads another opposition alliance running in the elections.