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Dashnaktsutyun's Hovannisian Blasts Former, Present Governments

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  • Dashnaktsutyun's Hovannisian Blasts Former, Present Governments

    By Ruben Meloyan

    Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
    Jan 31 2008

    Vahan Hovannisian, the presidential candidate of the Armenian
    Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), lashed out at Armenia's
    present and former leaderships on Thursday, saying they are both to
    blame for the country's socioeconomic woes.

    Hovannisian attacked the two mutually antagonistic forces as he
    campaigned in economically depressed areas south and east of Lake
    Sevan one day after they were visited by former President Levon

    In a speech before more than a hundred people in the local town of
    Martuni, the deputy speaker of parliament said Armenia's economic
    slump of the early 1990s was the result of "illiterate privatization"
    and other economic policies implemented by the Ter-Petrosian
    administration. "They privatized whatever they could for nothing, they
    sold off machines and other equipment of our plants, they operated
    nothing, they closed jobs," he said.

    "They are now again rising up. He [Ter-Petrosian] came here again and
    tried to pour poison into your ears. They are signing the song of the
    former authorities. But we won't be deceived by that," Hovannisian told
    the crowd, which was much smaller than the one pulled by Ter-Petrosian
    the previous day.

    Hovannisian was also highly critical of the economic track record of
    the current Armenian government in which his party is represented
    by three ministers. He said Armenia's double-digit economic is not
    broad-based and has been largely confined to the capital Yerevan.

    "Have you felt the 12 percent growth on your skin?" asked the
    Dashnaktsutyun leader. "Are you better off by 12 percent? Has the
    [state] budget has been quadrupled? Yes, it has. Bravo! But have your
    living standards quadrupled? No."

    Speaking in the nearby large village of Vartenik, Hovannisian said
    that he, if elected president, will make sure that "huge investments"
    flowing into the Armenian economy are more evenly distributed all over
    the country. He also pledged to "reconsider terms" of controversial
    and repeated privatizations of Armenia's largest gold mines located
    in the area.

    Operations at the Zod mines, which employ hundreds of poorly paid
    local residents, all but ground to a halt in January last year amid
    a serious dispute between their Indian owner, Vedanta Resources,
    and the Armenian government. Vedanta was forced to sell them to a
    Russian financial-industry group after being accused of large-scale
    fraud by the government.

    Hovannisian would not say if he has serious misgivings about this
    deal and, if so, whether he would try to have it renegotiated.

    The prolonged hiatus in Zod's operations aggravated the already
    difficult socioeconomic situation in a region where a large part of
    the male population has to work in Russia on a permanent or seasonal
    basis. High unemployment is in turn fuelling voter apathy about the
    approaching presidential election and political life in general.

    "There are no jobs here," said one man in Martuni. "We are barely

    "We want jobs and nothing else," agreed another. "I have three sons
    aged between 20 and 25 and they all sit at home. Only I work."