LORI, Armenia (Yerkir)–"There is only one force in Armenia that can change the system and that’s the Armenian Revolutionary Federation," Armenian Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian said to rally-goers Tuesday while campaigning in Lori Province.
Hovannesian’s remarks came during his speech to the residents of Spitak Tuesday, where the presidential candidate, who is also a member of the ARF Bureau, was meeting with voters to discuss their current economic and social problems. Spitak, located at the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake, was left in complete ruins after the earthquake. Since then, the city has been rebuilt and is undergoing a surge in construction.
But the level of development in Spitak, and Lori in general has been inadequate and unequal, according to Hovannesian, who told voters gathered at his rally that every time he visits Spitak he is happy to see the rapid construction of buildings, but is also deeply saddened when he sees the discontent of its citizens who have not felt the benefits of the development and are unhappy their current conditions.
"Back in 1990s, we were demanding that the Lori and Shirak regions be free economic zones where a flexible tax policy could allow people in these regions to rebuild their homes," Hovannesian said.
But the authorities did nothing to help revitalize the communities in the earthquake zone, he noted. Although the cities are being developed and buildings erected, the villages are still in a dreadful situation where no construction is going on, he said, adding, that this situation is not solely the result of there not being enough money.
The situation here is not enough and the population is forced to leave their fatherland to work and raise their families abroad, according to Hovannesian, who went on to explain how those who leave tend to invest money back into Armenia only to have it flow right back out of Armenia because favorable conditions exist only for the importers.
"The population of these regions emigrates because of unsatisfactory conditions they continue to suffer, while importers make big profits," Hovannesian said. "The authorities say: ‘What’s the difference whether the economy is developing due to domestic production or imports?’ I say there is a difference. The domestic producers should be encouraged to create more jobs. I am for those who invest here and not for those who import cigars and whiskey to enrich customs bureaucrats. I’ll give privileges to domestic businessmen," Hovannesian exclaimed.
Hovannesian promised the voters of Spitak that he will eliminate monopolies and deliver freedom but he said the freedom would come only when an individual is capable of feeding his family by his own work.
Hovannesian spoke of two injustices in the country: one is that there is development in the country but regular people do not gain from it; the other one is that the development is only in Yerevan, and people want to move to Yerevan to seek a better life. In the worst-case scenario, he said, they simply leave the country because the level of disparity in the development of the country.
This situation is wrong and it began when the Armenian Pan-National Movement came to power and criminal groups took hold of economic powers, according to Hovannesian. Today, the old and the current regimes, both of which are engaged in incorrect and corrupt policies, are locked in a battle for control over the government, he said.
According to Hovannesian, the clash between these two extremes can bring about a very dangerous reality for the country. The old authorities, in order to reestablish their control, are readying themselves for a conflict, while the current authorities, unable to legitimately defend their position, are using pressure and fear tactics to gain victory, Hovannesian explained.
"Who said that the choice is between the bad and the worse?" Hovannesian asked. "My team is the best and most professional in Armenia and I will restore the constitutional order in the country. We will change this system with the help of your votes," he concluded.