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Hrant Gadarigian

Raffi Hovannisian Launches Presidential Campaign; Urges Voters to Go to the Polls

“I believe that our true Armenia is still in front of us”

Under a cloudy and cold Yerevan sky, Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian kicked off his presidential campaign today, calling on fellow Armenian citizens to go to the polls on February 18 and finally send the current president and his team packing.

A crowd of 300 or so Heritage Party activists, members of the press and curious onlookers were on hand at the Aram Khachaturian statue outside Yerevan’s Opera House as Hovannisian crossed Tumanyan Street by himself.

Shaking hands and chit-chatting as he made his way through the throng, Hovannisian climbed the steps leading to the Opera House and launched into a twenty-five minute speech castigating President Sargsyan and the current regime for incompetence and neglecting the socio-economic needs of the vast majority of average Armenian citizens.

Hovannisian urged his fellow citizens to believe that they could change the reality on the ground in Armenia, calling them to take back the reins of power from a regime that had done precious little to stem the tide of migration, rising unemployment and the environmental degradation of the country.

Listing his priorities if elected president, Hovannisian said he would immediately cut the fact from the national budget, saving 50 billion AMD. The candidate also promised to increase tax revenues by 250 billion by reining in the shadow economy. Such measures would allow for a 50% rise in pensions and greater investment to the social sectors.

Hovannisian also declared that by cleaning the tax and customs sectors of corruption and by putting in place a professional management team, Armenia could attract 600% more in direct foreign investment which, coupled with domestic investment, could realistically create 180,000 high paying jobs.

Pushing home his economic reform program, Hovannisian told the crowd that by destroying the business monopolies in Armenia, which operate with government backing, an annual growth rate of 10% during the next five years is doable and that public sector salaries would also rise, pulling 600,000 out of the clutches of poverty.

On the foreign affairs front, Hovannisian declared that he would nullify the Turkish-Armenian protocols and would continue to seek diplomatic relations with Turkey on a no preconditions basis. If Turkey did not agree to such a framework, Armenia would set its own preconditions for talks with Ankara.

The Heritage Party leader said he would sign an executive order recognizing the independence of Artsakh.

Commenting on the need to stem emigration from Armenia, Hovannisian said the establishment of the rule of law and true constitutional governance would also encourage thousands of Armenians from the diaspora to follow his lead and relocate to the homeland.

In a pointed challenge to President Sargsyan, Hovannisian declared that if the ruling regime abused its administrative powers to promote their candidate’s re-election, he would publicly label the election a fraud and illegitimate.

“If I or my election team spot any party campaign posters or Republican Party emblems on any state or municipal building, well, that would signal that this election is not free and fair,” Hovannisian said.

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