The eight political parties and one election bloc got off to a brisk start in the 2012 parliamentary election campaign as rallies and meetings with constituencies took place in and outside capital Yerevan on the third official day of electioneering.
Predictably, top representatives of both the governing and opposition forces were trying to convince potential voters that their election programs were the best, or at least the most doable, promising to build an Armenia people have dreamed of within the next five years.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) launched its campaign in Yerevan’s southeastern Erebuni district, with President Serzh Sargsyan, the leader of the party, addressing a rally in the square near the Railway Station. In his speech Sargsyan promised to ensure a “totally different” level of freedom for every citizen of Armenia within the next few years.
The president acknowledged that his government has failed to provide an economic growth that would be perceived as tangible by broader sections of the population, but stressed that now they do have the prospect of effectively creating thousands of new jobs.
“I frankly say that we haven’t had breathing space, but now we do. Within the next few years, working together, we will be able to insure the direct influence of the growing economy on the living standards of everyone increases,” Sargsyan underscored.
Meanwhile, in Yeghvard, a town near Yerevan, tycoon Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), which is the RPA’s junior partner in the current ruling coalition, was warning people not to believe those who promise the creation of new jobs, implying that encouraging entrepreneurship is the way to go.
“Whoever says that is lying. We should be able to solve the unemployment problem, to allow people to set up small and medium-sized enterprises with their families or in partnership with a friend, gradually strengthen the sprouts of their businesses and become strong entrepreneurs,” Tsarukyan stressed. “The government should grant privileges to those running small and medium-sized businesses so that they stay in Armenia.”
The main opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) began its campaign in the province of Aparan, which is about 50 kilometers to the northwest of capital Yerevan. At a meeting with local community representatives ANC leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan claimed that Armenia was “disappearing from the world map” because of “a group of bandits”. He urged people to vote in the May 6 elections in accordance with their conscience, resisting electoral bribes and braving intimidation, to end the “15-year-long nightmare”.
Ter-Petrosyan, too, urged people not to believe the government. “They are telling such stories, giving such promises that it seems they are angels who have come down to earth from heaven. There is only one thing in what they say that I, too, believe, and that is their motto, which says ‘let’s believe in order to change’. And I believe that we are going to change it,” said the opposition leader.
Aram Sargsyan, the leader of the Democratic Party of Armenia, also criticized the government, but advocated for an “evolutionary form of dismantling the power.”
Presenting his party’s election program at a meeting in Yerevan, Sargsyan (no relation to the president) highlighted the problems of young families in Armenia. He suggested that young couples should be allowed to take a mortgage for 10 years and buy housing on a government guarantee that the more children they have, the more of their debt will be cleared.
“After the first child’s birth 15-20 percent of the loan will be repaid, 30 percent of the debt will be written off during the births of the second and third child each, while the entire debt will be canceled during the birth of the fourth child. This provision will solve a number of problems, for example it will increase the birthrate in the country,” he said.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun) held its first campaign rally in Yerevan during which ARF Bureau member Vahan Hovhannisyan urged people to support their program, saying that its implementation will become a “real revolution”.
Hovhannisyan expressed confidence that people will judge the government by its deeds rather than be misled by its bribes. “The government has taken advantage of our weaknesses, our cowardice, indifference and irresponsibility, but we will return to you your bravery, courage, because our people deserve it,” the ARF leader said.