The late-night shooting attack against presidential candidate, leader of the National Self-Determination Union Paruyr Hayrikyan is qualified by many as a blow to the Armenian statehood.
The first reaction of many was shock as media provided coverage of the incident after which the 63-year-old Soviet-era dissident was rushed to hospital to be treated for what appeared to be a nonfatal gunshot wound.
Shooting at a presidential candidate is unprecedented in independent Armenia and no wonder the incident was followed by live discussions on online social networking sites.
A low-key and mostly boring campaign suddenly took a dramatic turn with the shooting incident and now Hayrikyan campaigners do not doubt that the attack was directed against their candidate and was the result of his political activities. A nephew of Hayrikyan, however, said that they did not notice anything suspicious during the campaign in which Hayrikyan also held outdoor meetings with ordinary people, nor did he knew about any threats received by the candidate during this time.
Still, an ArmeniaNow photo reporter who tried to take some campaign photographs of Hayrikyan on Thursday noticed that on going from place to place the candidate mostly preferred staying in his car.
The candidate, 63, was attacked in a central Yerevan street and according to preliminary reports was wounded in the shoulder. He was said to be consciousness, under medical supervision and his wound is not considered life threatening.
The investigation in connection with the case will be conducted by the National Security Service. Police Chief Vladimir Gasparyan, who was also at the scene, told media in the hospital later that the police considered several versions, but he did not reveal any other details.
After the attack, Hayrikyan was visited at St. Gregory the Illuminator hospital in Yerevan by all presidential candidates, besides incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan and National Accord Party leader Aram Harutyunyan. Hayrikyan was visited by senior state officials, including Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, National Assembly Speaker Hovik Abrahamyan and Chief of Presidential Staff Vigen Sargsyan.
Talking to media, Abrahamyan called the incident a “deliberate step aimed at creating instability in the country.”
“I am convinced that the criminal and the political forces that stand behind it won’t succeed in doing it,” stressed the parliament speaker, who is a senior member of Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party and manages the incumbent president’s election campaign. He added, however, that he did not have any theories as to who may have shot or ordered the shooting attack.
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan also said that the attack was first of all directed against the government.
“I think there will also be political assessments. We are all very angered by what happened. We will take all measures in order to reveal the culprits. Reasons can be various, but one thing is clear – that this is first of all a blow against the government and statehood,” said Prime Minister Sargsyan (no relation to President Sargsyan) in his comments at the hospital.
By the way, after the attack online social networking sites began actively discussing the possibility of postponing the elections by two weeks. Under the Armenian constitution, if “insurmountable obstacles” arise for one of the presidential candidates during the election period the presidential election is postponed for two weeks. If the ‘insurmountable obstacles’ persist, a new election is appointed and the ballot is scheduled on the 40th day after the expiration of this two-week period.
State officials advise waiting until medical conclusions regarding Hayrikyan’s health condition, after which election authorities will decide on the matter of either to postpone the elections, now scheduled for February 18, or not.