SHIRAK (Yerkir)–"Yerevan can develop only if the other regions of Armenia develop," Armenian Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian exclaimed Thursday during his second day of campaigning in the Shirak villages of Ashotsk, Amasia and Marmashen.
Shirak suffers the highest rate of emigration in Armenia. People leave, because the government doesn’t pay any attention to remote regions like Shirak, Hovannesian explained villagers.
But there are ways to solve this problem, he noted. The government can exempt the villagers from paying property taxes or at the very least run gas lines to these outlying villages, he added.
In 1988 Shirak was hit by a devastating earthquake, which leveled its major cities, Gyumri and Spitak, and laid waste most of the regions towns and villages.
In Ashotsk, Hovannesian addressed a crowed alongside former National Assembly member Aghasi Arshakian and ARF Parliamentary Faction member Ara Nranian.
"Armenia’s economy was shattered in the early 1990s and we don’t have the right to accumulate all the wealth in Yerevan only to leave the provinces in poverty," Nanaian said.
"Vahan Hovannesian is an honest politician who represents the most influential political party in Armenia," Arshakian said as he called on the residents of Ashotsk to support the ARF and vote for Hovannesian. "I have always made my decisions based on reason and conscience and the ARF has never discredited itself."
Later in the day, the campaign traveled to the village of Amasia, where reports indicate that the authorities are intimidating people not to attend Hovannesian’s rallies. Nranian and Hovannesian urged the people not to yield to pressure or fear because the ARF has always stood by the people and will continue to stand by them.
"We have to build a fair country together," he said. This region was devastated and it deserves government assistance and certain privileges, he added.
Neither the past nor current regime can bring about the changes Armenia needs, according to Hovannesian. "We must look toward the future," he exclaimed.
Thursday’s campaign trail ended in the village Marmashen, where residents signed Hovannesian’s social contract, pledging their support for Hovannesian’s candidacy.