Let's all agree that no political campaign event anywhere is complete without balloons. But it can help to make sure that whoever supplies them has taken Chemistry 101.
On May 5, just two days before Armenia's parliamentary elections, Armenian politics literally became explosive when scores of balloons exploded over a Yerevan rally for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia. Over 150 people were hospitalized, and some underwent plastic surgery. Now, after almost three months of guesswork, Armenian police have revealed that a certain Serob Bozoian and several like-minded people allegedly filled the balloons with, well, natural gas. A Republican Party supporter’s cigarette supposedly touched off the ball of fire.
Natural gas, cheaper than non-inflammable helium, is usually available in every kitchen in Yerevan, and, to hear Armenian police tell it, that’s exactly where entrepreneur Bozoian filled up over 6,000 balloons. The group could face heavy fines and up to five years in prison for ignoring public safety standards.
But the official version has raised a few suspecting eyebrows in Armenia. Questions are being asked why the government would hire such a small-time entrepreneur. Some say that the ruling party’s alleged attempts to scrimp on campaign spending may also be at fault here. The party denies any guilt. In any case, here's betting that it's helium all the way next election. The public-safety risk of this gas usually includes only a high-pitch, cartoon-character voice. But that could actually add weight to campaign promises.