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‘A Boycott Is the Way to Go;’ Death of ‘Food Bringer’ and Armenian Election Races

Most of the political forces running for parliament in the upcoming elections, in one way or another, have begun using the death of Artur Sargsyan, the man who was arrested last summer after driving through a police cordon to deliver food to opposition gunmen occupying a Yerevan police station, to promote their election campaign. Meanwhile, in one of his final interviews with the local Hraparak newspaper, Sargsyan had announced that he would not support any of the forces and called to boycott the April 2 elections.

“From December 31 until my second arrest, I received multiple offers from all parties to support them, but since the current political field in Armenia is a farce, I refused [the offers]; I do not intend to stand by anyone. Artur Sargsyan will not take part in the voting, but will instead take certain measures to disrupt the elections. On April 2, I will be at the Yerablur [military cemetery] to honor the memory of the heroes who died in the April [fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh]. A boycott is the way to go.”

After offering their condolences on Sargsyan’s passing, the majority of the political forces proceeded to either suspend their election campaigns or to call to use the elections as an opportunity for a regime change.

Condolences were expressed even by the ruling Republican Party, which is blamed by many for Sargsyan’s death.

To protest the iniquity perpetrated against him, Sargsyan went on hunger strike in prison twice, along with refusing medical care. This is what deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov had to say about the fact; “During the hunger strike, his doctors offered several times to transfer him to a civilian hospital; but he always refused.” The Republican further insisted that “those guilty will be punished.”

“I am in great pain,” Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, also a member of the Republican Party, announced for his part.

The Republican Party’s coalition partner ARF-Dashnaktsutyun stated that they could not afford to interrupt their campaign since they had pre-scheduled meetings. “We have to honor the agreements we have with residents of remote areas,” the ARF said in a statement, noting, at the same time, that the party would cancel all the concert events.

MP-oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan’s bloc went even further and interrupted their campaign for the remainder of the day. Also note that Tsarukyan was not among the 27 lawmakers who petitioned to the office of the General Prosecutor to release Sargsyan on bail.

Armenia’s former PM Hrant Bagratyan, who is currently running for prime minister from the Free Democrats party, announced that “Sargsyan was indirectly murdered by the authorities” and promised to “liberate Armenia,” if elected. On top of that, the Free Democrats began their rally in Etchmiadzin with a minute of silence.

Another Free Democrats candidate, Anahit Bakhshyan, saw Sargsyan’s death as an opportunity for a regime change call. “It is imperative that we change the regime through these elections. Our people have fallen into oblivion; they say nothing depends on them. Come to your senses! The authorities that drove Artur to this will one day knock at the door of each of us. The people have to say ‘no’ to the authorities,” Bakhshyan declared during the rally.

The ORO bloc, co-headed by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, former foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan, and past presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisyan, stated for their part that “the death of beloved food bringer Artur Sargsyan was a great sorrow for all of us. His second unreasonable and meaningless arrest was nothing but vindictiveness and vile immorality on the part of the authorities.”

An excerpt from Artur Sargsyan’s Hraparak interview; “I will not stand by a man who, having been a foreign minister of Armenia, announced stupidly that the liberated regions of Artsakh are occupied territories. Such a person has no place in the Republic of Armenia. I also cannot support a man who was fully aware [of the impending developments] of the four-day April war and took no measures to prevent them.”

At a rally in Yerevan’s Shengavit district, Nikol Pashinyan, a member of the opposition Yelk alliance, spoke about the authorities’ motives for torturing Sargsyan. This, Pashinyan claimed, was done to deepen the atmosphere of despair within the society; “Do not despair; there is a way out! On April 2, with your heads and spirits high, go and vote for the Yelk bloc (Exit; A Way Out)!”