YEREVAN (Yerkir Media)–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau chairman Hrant Markarian Thursday said in an interview with Yerkir Media that he had met with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian to urge calm in the upcoming elections.
In a first-of-its-kind interview, Markarian diligently quashed efforts by the Sarkissian camp as well as the Levon Ter-Petrosian camp to discredit the ARF and its candidate Vahan Hovannesian in the 11th hour.
During the past several days, newspapers loyal to the two have printed articles criticizing the ARF and bringing back past issues such as the “Dro” and the “ARF 31” cases, which in the 1990’s were fabricated against the ARF by the Ter-Petrosian administration.
Markarian called into question the integrity of Ter-Petrosian, who had pledged a “clean” election campaign during his historic visit with ARF representatives late last year.
“Levon Ter-Petrosian has said that he would withdraw his candidacy if Serzh Sarkissian did the same. That would be desirable, since the people would finally be able to breath,” said Markarian, adding “I have another proposal: Ter-Petrosian should withdraw his candidacy and throw his support to Vazgen Manoukian, since he owes Manoukian for the 1996 presidential elections. This way, all forces will support Manoukian and the people will have a united candidate.”
Markarian went on to say that he and the ARF leadership have always advocated for political discourse that could benefit the Armenian people, explaining that it was this belief that led them to meet with Ter-Petrosian, in hopes that he had learned from his mistakes.
“Evidently, the former president has not learned from his mistakes. This is very unfortunate,” said Markarian.
He added that the people of Armenia’should not be misled, as has been the case with the Ter-Petrosian and Sarkissian campaigns, both of which have been slinging mud at one another from the onset of the campaign.
“We have stayed away from this disgusting environment, but the time has come to set the record straight, for the sake of the people of Armenia,” said Markian.
In another interview Thursday with Armenia’s State Television, Hovannesian also attacked the former and current leaders for their campaign approached.
“I am disgusted by this. If they had something to say, why didn’t they say it at the appropriate time. It is evident that they are unable to fight with ideological weapons, so they have resorted to bringing up past issues,” said Hovannesian.
If the ARF were truly an undesirable and criminal entity as Ter-Petrosian is painting it to be why then did he “come to the ARF offices and say that the turn of events [during his administration] were unfortunate?” added Hovannesian.
With five days left to election day Hovannesian was in Vayotz Dzor Province Thursday meeting with voters in the villages of Areni, Getap, Shatin and the towns of Egheknadzor, Vaik, and Jermouk to discuss his platform, answer questions, and encourage overall civic participation.
"The path of development that Armenia is currently undertaking today is missing two very key elemen’s," Hovannesian told voters during his rallies throughout Vayotz Dzor. "We are facing a paradox when, instead of eliminating poverty, economic growth deepens the gap between the rich and poor by making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer.
The second deficiency is that whatever development occurring within the country is in downtown Yerevan, according to Hovannesian. Only the construction and service sectors are developing, the results of which are not benefiting the country as a whole because the country’s economy is producing nothing of export value nor is it developing its agriculture, he explained.
The disparity in Armenia’s economic development is a core issue in Hovannesian’s campaign. Since the pre-election period began in mid January, Hovannesian and his campaign team have been busily traveling throughout Armenia’s rural regions, speaking to villagers and factory workers about the daily economic conditions they face. Hovannesian, who is also a member of the Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, has been presenting a viable vision of change to villagers who, he says, are growing tired of the authorities’ negligence of their plight.
"All of Armenia can drastically improve, but only if the correct policies are implemented," Hovannesian said in Areni.
We must first create confidence that villagers will be paid for the crops they sell, so that their means of survival are secured, according to Hovannesian. Second, villagers must be assured that there will be a safety net for them in case of natural disasters and other such instances. This, he said, will return confidence to our villagers and farmers and give them the incentives to produce.
The old regime did nothing to address these issues, and the current regime is not doing anything either, he said, adding, that both merely hunger for power and are reaching to the extremes to get it.
Instead of offering solutions to problems, and carrying on campaigns based on policies and ideologies, both these extreme polls are pushing the people to the brink of social conflict because they know that neither has a chance of winning in a democratic election, Hovannesian said as he discussed the escalating tensions in Armenia on the eve of elections.
"Neither the Armenian Pan-National Movement, nor the current authorities are ready to carry out the reforms needed," Hovannesian explained to rallygoers at Areni. "The ARF is the only way out of this situation. Our goal has always been the empowerment of our people. We have fought for justice and freedom in the past and we will continue our struggle against the extremism of these two polls."