YEREVAN: Over 20,000 supporters of Armenian opposition candidate Robert Kocharyan packed a central square in the capital Yerevan on Friday, ahead of snap parliamentary polls this weekend.
Armenia’s reformist Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the early election in an effort to defuse a political crisis after a disastrous war with Azerbaijan last year.
He is hoping to renew his mandate, but is in a tight race with former president Kocharyan.
On Friday evening supporters of Pashinyan’s main rival, including decorated war veterans, massed in the capital’s Republic Square waving flags and chanting “Kocharyan!” Kocharyan appeared to have mobilised about the same number of supporters -- or even slightly more -- than his rival managed at a rally the day before.
The rally for Kocharyan, who was in power between 1998 and 2008 and counts Russian leader Vladimir Putin among his friends, was the last campaign event ahead of the snap parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Polls show Pashinyan’s party neck-and-neck with Kocharyan’s electoral bloc, and political analysts say the election result is hard to predict.
Many at Friday’s rally said they could no longer trust Pashinyan, who came to power in 2018 on pledges to oust old elite, but led the small south Caucasus country into a war with Azerbaijan that claimed more than 6,000 lives.
“We lived well when Kocharyan was president,” said one supporter, Emma Khachaturyan, 50.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2021