In 1998, Armenian presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrikian ran for office with the slogan "Let’s not lose an historic moment." Fifteen years later, he has a similar one: "The historic moment has come." But many Armenian observers believe that, by not requesting an election delay after suffering from gunshot wounds, 63-year-old Hayrikian has lost his chance for "an historic moment."
Hayrikian, who was shot twice and wounded on January 31 by an unknown gunman in Yerevan, earlier had indicated that he would probably apply to the Constitutional Court for a two-week postponement in the vote; his right under Armenia's constitution.
But, when push came to shove, it was not to be.
"[N]o act of terrorism should hold the power of disrupting the natural flow of political realities,” he commented, in a surprise appearance at a February 5 press-conference in Yerevan. "I have come simply to show my presence," he said to explain his hospital exit.
The candidate's statement was echoed by Karo Yeghnukyan, a representative of his campaign team, who told reporters that if Hayrikian had “exercised his right,"it might mean that he was “taking advantage of the situation."
Now, some Armenians claim that it is the government itself which is doing that.
Incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and other high-profile officials visited Hayrikian in the hospital and condemned the assault, investigated as an assassination attempt, as intended to «disrupt the elections» and aimed against Armenia itself.
But the memory of Hayrikian's earlier comments lingers on.
«He suffered a serious injury, and it would be natural if he took advantage of two weeks' delay," argued fellow presidential candidate Arman Melikian. "If he doesn't do so, it means he was exposed to pressure from intruders protecting the interests of the authorities."
But Hayrikian, who earlier had blamed Russian security services for the attack, dismissed such claims as blather.
“I’m telling all these candidates to consider their own age and think about what Hayrikian was doing at their age before saying such foolish things,” he said, referring to his past as one of the Soviet-era leaders of the Armenian independence movement.
Some analysts, though, doubt that Hayrikian's decision to see the election through will make much difference one way or another for the eight-candidate vote, largely viewed as a shoe-in for President Sargsyan.
“It is still as boring as it was before the assassination attempt against Hayrikian . . ." commented political analyst Armen Badalian. "As for the results of the vote, they are already obvious. Nothing will change."