Majoritarian by-elections to the National Assembly are to be held in Constituency No. 44 (Yeghvard) on August 29, 2004. As of July 26, the election campaign had officially begun. Becoming a member of parliament is a business in Armenia; thus, an Armenian-style business competition has been launched. Every one knows why businessmen strive to get elected to parliament-it guarantees them personal immunity and protection for their businesses. Of seven candidates registered in Yeghvard for this by-election, the two luckiest will fight to the bitter end. It is already clear that the main struggle will unfold between Artak Sargisyan and Arayik Hairapetyan, although the other five candidates are making their own calculations. Some of them are on the ballot as part of the strategy of the two leading candidates, in order to take votes away from each other in certain precincts. Our sources inform us that the process of buying votes is already underway.
Who are the main candidates?
Artak Sargisyan is the owner of the SAS Supermarket in Yerevan and represents Yeghvard. The day before his candidature was registered by the Central Election Commission, he became a member of the Orinats Yerkir Party.
Arayik Hairapetyan (nicknamed Lavanda) is the owner of Lavanda Holding, a chain of stores, cafés, and dry-cleaners. He represents Aparan, and is supported by the Nig-Aparan Association of Fellow Countrymen.
The electorate of Constituency No. 44 consists mainly of residents of Yeghvard and Nor Hajin. Therefore, support for Artak Sargisyan is expected to be strong. However, it should be remembered that the honorary chairman of Nig-Aparan is the prosecutor general of Armenia, Aghvan Hovsepyan.
Thus far, only Artak Sargisyan has opened his election headquarters. In the evening hours, dozens of cars can be seen surrounding the headquarters located near the Yeghvard city entrance. Visitors include government officials, businessmen, and police officers.
Arayik Hairapetyan has so far limited himself to various meetings with the electorate. Representatives of the two candidates are also holding meetings with local mayors and heads of village administrations. The main topic of the discussions is money. We will keep you posted as to how the candidates calculate the cost of the votes to be bought.