At least 20,000 supporters of Armenia opposition candidate Robert Kocharyan packed a central square in the capital Yerevan yesterday, ahead of snap parliamentary polls this weekend.
Armenia’s reformist Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the early election in a bid to defuse a crisis after a disastrous war with Azerbaijan.
In his bid to renew his mandate, he is in a tight race with former president Kocharyan.
Yesterday evening supporters of Pashinyan’s main rival, including decorated war veterans, massed in the capital’s Republic Square waving flags and chanting “Kocharyan!”.
The demonstration came a day after some 20,000 people turned out to voice their support for Pashinyan.
Roughly the same number of supporters, perhaps a slightly bigger crowd, turned up at the pro-Kocharyan rally.
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 tomorrow.
Polls show Pashinyan’s party neck-in-neck with Kocharyan’s electoral bloc, and political analysts say the election result is hard to predict.
Many at yesterday’s rally said they could no longer trust Pashinyan, who came to power in 2018 on pledges to oust old elites, but led the small South Caucasus country into a war with arch-enemy Azerbaijan that claimed more than 6,000 lives.
“We lived well when Kocharyan was president,” said one supporter, Emma Khachaturyan, 50.
“Pashinyan is a traitor,” she added, referring to the prime minister’s controversial agreement that ceded swathes of territory to Azerbaijan after the six-week conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.
Mger Palyan, a 47-year-old businessman, said that Kocharyan, a dollar millionaire who hails from Karabakh, understood the needs of the army. “I was in the army when he was president. He always worked and was true to his word.”
A poll released yesterday by MPG, a polling group affiliated with Gallup International Association, showed Kocharyan’s bloc leading narrowly with 28.7% to 25.2% for Pashinyan’s party.
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