Wednesday, 19 September

No dignity in Masis

“I was a teacher for 40 years. Two days ago a former student of mine came to my house and offered me 15,000 Drams (about $25) to vote for some businessman. I am ashamed that I had such a student. No one has any dignity in this town anymore,” says 65-year-old pensioner M.S. For understandable reasons we aren’t printing her name. In no other city or town of Armenia is the situation this bad. Everything is done openly, with the participation of law enforcement officers, professionals and representatives of the criminal world. “Who will take responsibility for corrupting the people this way?” asks the teacher’s daughter-in-law, a teacher herself.

Precinct # 21 includes the town of Masis and 20 adjacent villages. There are 34,000 voters, 13,000 of them in Masis. Seven candidates for parliament are registered in the precinct. The main struggle is taking place among three of them - Member of Parliament Gurgen Arsenyan, supported by the Republican Party, the executive director of the Masis Tobacco Company, Samvel Sahakyan, supported by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) and a former minister of ecology, Murad Muradyan. One candidate who refused to continue campaigning is Misha Hakobyan, brother of the mayor of Masis. He withdrew from the race because of the pressure exerted on his brother, Sasha Hakobyan.

On May 13, 2003, 20 heads of village administrations were summoned to the Mayor’s Office of Masis. Parliamentary candidate Gurgen Arsenyan and Minister for Local Governance Hovik Abrahamyan took part in the meeting, and the heads of the village administrations received their instructions. A candidate who is convinced of his victory stated in his local campaign headquarters, “The villagers sell their sheep for 20,000 drams. During the last elections I bought their votes for 5,000 drams each. This year the prices have gone up, and will pay 15,000 drams.”

However, it possible that the price of election bribes will go up sharply. According to our information, in three villages it has been decided to buy votes for 20,000 drams each.

“I am sure that God will punish us for all this,” said the pensioner who devoted 40 years of her life to educating children.

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