Armenian presidential elections at stake after attack on candidate

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An unidentified assailant shot at politician and Armenian presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan and wounded him on Thursday just before midnight on a street in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. Hayrikyan was transported to hospital and his state is stable.

The presidential elections are scheduled for February 18, although Armenian constitution allows to postpone elections for up to 40 days if any candidate is unable to participate in the race for reasons he is not responsible for.

The deputy chairman of the parliament Eduard Sharmazanov also said the act was a "provocation against democratic, free and transparent elections". A parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamyan admitted the election can be postponed.

Following a press-conference on Friday, REGNUM News Agency reported that analyst Sergei Shakariants said the attackers could have wanted to delay the elections. He said that Paruyr Hayrikyan was not expected to win, and merely removing him from the race would not change the essence of the elections; elections were the real target. Sergei Shakariants also said the attackers may want to move the elections closer to March 1 to remind the public of previous troubles on this day in 2008 when the current president, Serzh Sargsyan, was elected.

Former dissident Hayrikyan leads the National Self-determination Union, which opposes ruling president Serzh Sargsyan. Sarkisian is expected to win the elections. Together eight candidates run for election. Hayrikyan, 63, was held in prison for years under the Soviet regime and later left the country for exile, but he returned to Armenia in the 1990s. He received only a small support in the pre-election polls. He had already participated in elections in 2003 but was not elected.

Political violence is not new to the country. In 1999, eight politicians and officers, including prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan and parliament speaker Karen Demirchyan, were assassinated inside the parliament hall.