Saturday, 22 September

How Long Can You Keep Pushing the People Like This?

An early election campaign for parliamentary seats stubbornly rages on in the city of Alaverdi and the regional communities of Tumanyan in the Lori Marz. The main players include the ruling Hanrapetakan (Republican) party, Barkavach Hayastan (Prosperous Armenia) and Presidential Advisor Sergo Yeritsyan. The population of Alaverdi and the other communities of Electoral Region Number 31 have long been aware of Yeritsyan's intention to propose his candidacy for a majoritarian parliamentary seat. Yeritsyan is renovating his campaign office on the first floor of a building on Sayat Nova Square in central Alaverdi. The office belongs to the Manes foundation- established by Valery Mejlumyan – of which Yeritsyan is a trustee.

It is clear that Yeritsyan is setting up a campaign team based on Armenian Copper Program (ACP) director Valery Mejlumyan's financial and human resources. He has been joined by some staff members from the Alaverdi regional office of the Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party after he arranged jobs for them at the new professional technical academy. Reliable sources claim that party leader Arthur Baghdasaryan has demanded the expulsion of those members from the party.

But the early campaigning has already had some undesirable consequences for the candidate. His meetings with representatives of educational institutions and with the city residents have remained largely ineffective, and his frequent live broadcasts on local television, saturated with misinformed assessments and unrealistic promises have invited the population's hostility. Yeritsyan has so far not been perceived as a serious candidate for parliament by most of the residents there.

The Armenian Copper Program company recently paid 18 million drams to purchase fifty percent of shares in the Alaverdi television channel Ankyun+ 3. According to one of our sources, this idea was first proposed by Sergo Yeritsyan. He suggested the purchase to Mejlumyan, so that the channel could then be used during the election campaign.

The competition between the Hanrapetakan and Barkavach Hayastan parties has so far appeared in the form of a slight arrogance on each side toward the other. The Hanrapetakan party has put to use all the administrative advantages it has in the region. The staff in the health and education departments as well as the community budget structures have been unabashedly “ Hanrapetakan ized”. Their work is being used as a weapon against them, which is a disgrace to the Hanrapetakan party, who had earlier already lost a lot of their popularity in that region.

Alvard Babayan, principal of the Sayat Nova School in Alaverdi has forced her staff to join the Hanrapetakan party, promising that if 50 of them join, Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan will visit the school and personally distribute their party membership cards. The staff have found themselves in a difficult position, afraid of being fired by their unpredictable principal. We asked one of the schoolteachers, who had already been photographed for her party card, whether she was willingly seeking membership in Hanrapetakan , and she replied, “But who gave us a choice?”

Teachers at the 44 schools in the region have been similarly “ Hanrapetakan ized”. Svetlana Karyan, director of the Polyclinic Company in Alaverdi has already taken steps in the “ Hanrapetakan ization” process. 50 of her 70 staff members are also in the Hanrapetakan party ranks. The head of the Lori regional administration, or marzpet , Henrik Kochinyan, distributed their party cards. A vivid memory of that day remained in the minds of the polyclinic staff, including the celebratory decorations in the hall and the balloons blown by the clinic orderlies.

Hanrapetakan community leaders in villages are going a step further. Their people are going from house to house in the villages of Haghpat, Odzun, Shnogh, Akori as well as in the city of Tumanyan and forcing residents to join the party. It should be noted that the community leaders, the directors of organizations under the provincial administration and, most importantly, the provincial security forces have all placed themselves at the disposal of Marzpet Kochinyan.

In this situation, one can easily understand the attempts by Kochinyan – who is losing popularity every day – to appear shoulder-to-shoulder with Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan and to strengthen the party's provincial structures. However, he is also trying to tighten his own grip on them, because time has shown that he has always bypassed Margaryan in critical moments and used those structures as his trump card.

Time again will reveal to whom Henrik Kochinyan will present this trump card– Robert Kocharyan, Serzh Sargsyan or the opposition. What is important is to keep the trump card in his hand and not let it slip.

Barakavach Hayastan 's plan to distribute wheat, potatoes and fertilizers in order to encourage community membership in the party has also unquestionably failed in the Lori Marz. It caused anger among the village residents who have a high demand for wheat and also marred the good reputation of Gagik Tsarukyan as a benefactor. What kind of a benefactor is this if he seeks to gain from poor people? This is the opinion held by those who are rebelling, while those who have no opinion of their own are lining up to fill in membership applications at the party office, receiving 50 kg of wheat at 80 drams per kilogram, and then joining the Barkavach party ranks.

86-year old Odzun resident Pashik Miskaryan said the following, after she was offered wheat with those conditions, “I want to elect a man, not a donkey – do you understand? Why should I elect a donkey who will keep pushing these people? Push, push – how long can you keep pushing the people like this?”

Of the ruling parties, the Hay Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutyun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) has remained unnoticed in the region in the run-up to the parliamentary election. Unless Vahan Hovhannisyan and Armen Rustamyan start appearing on the national H1 and H2 channels soon, people in Alaverdi might start to think that the Dashnaktsutyun has ceased to exist.

Staff members of the Miavorvats Ashkhatankayin Kusaktsutyun (United Labor Party) do not conceal the fact that their entry into the parliament to be elected would depend on a possible agreement between the leadership of their party and the upper echelons of the current government.

On the threshold of the parliamentary elections, political life in the capital has shown that the main political parties - whose representatives make speeches on topics like crime slowing the country's development and poverty afflicting the people – have no regional structures, which could stand up against the atrocities of the government. It is all the same as having nothing at all.

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