At Inauguration, Sargisian Vows to Deal with Emigration, Unemployment, Poverty

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Some Protests Take Place

By Gayane Mkrtchyan

YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — Tuesday, April 9, during the extraordinary session of the National Assembly of Armenia held at the Karen Demirjian Sport and Concert Complex, the newly elected President Serge Sargisian assumed the office of President of Armenia for his second term. This was the sixth inauguration ceremony of independent Armenia. While the official winner of the February 18 ballot was swearing-in in the presence of high-ranking officials and diplomatic missions, at Liberty Square the official runner-up, leader of oppositional Heritage party Raffi Hovannisian also took an oath in front of his supporters.

With a special procedural order early this morning the state flag, presidential coat of arms, the original draft of the Constitution and a 7th century Holy Bible were taken to the Sport and Concert Complex.

With his right hand on the Gospel that belonged to the Catholicos’ Mother, Sargisian took his oath in accordance with the respective Constitutional provision: “Assuming the office of President of the Republic of Armenia, I swear to unreservedly fulfill requirements of the Constitution to respect human and civil rights and freedoms, to safeguard independence of the Republic, its territorial integrity and security for the glory of the Republic of Armenia and for the benefit of the people of the Republic of Armenia.”

In his inauguration statement Sargisian thanked citizens of Armenia for high turnout in the presidential elections, as well as those who entrusted him once again the task of serving as the president of the Republic of Armenia; he also thanked those who cast their votes for other candidates.

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“Thereby they expressed their discontent with the problems existing in the country. By doing so, they sent a clear message to the authorities, demanding more efficient work. Rest assured that all messages are duly received,” he said. The newly sworn-in president stressed economic development as top priority for the next five years.

“Let me highlight three main ones: emigration, unemployment, and poverty. The solutions for these problems are to be found on the same field. Efficient economy that is on the rise, this is the formula to our success. The second priority is in ensuring the rule of law. Equality of everyone before the law is a binding prerequisite both for our economic and political advancement. The third priority, most directly linked to the one before, the rule of law, is the deepening of democracy,” he said.

He stressed that in the area of foreign policy, a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno Karabagh issue is and will remain a priority for as long as necessary to arrive at a final solution, at the same time, consistently work to enhance the level of Armenia’s security.

“We have never terrorized our own people with war. Moreover, we have never used this issue as an excuse to gag the opposition. However, we deemed it our duty to earnestly and realistically state that such a threat does exist,” said the president.

Sargisian then completed his statement by a call to move from words to actions:

“Through the electoral campaign we all enjoyed ample opportunities for exposure and introducing our programs. At the same time, each of us was eager to get our ideas down fully and succinctly. Elections do not mark a destination; they signify a new phase. This is the phase for unrelenting and persistent work. The time has come to move from words to work, to reinforce words with work,” he said.

Some 2,000 invited guests were present at the inauguration ceremony, among them international delegations and diplomats representing around 60 countries, including Nagorno Karabagh led by President Bako Sahakyan, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Russian president’s chief of staff Sergey Ivanov, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and others.

Three oppositional parties Armenian National Congress, Heritage and Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun shunned the inauguration ceremony.

Later in the day, Sargisian, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, at the Presidential Palace attended the military parade dedicated to his inauguration as president of Armenia.

The police stopped opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian and thousands of his supporters from marching past the Presidential Palace in central Yerevan in protest against Sargisian’s reelection and inauguration.

Clashes occurred between protesters and riot police standing in several rows to block the way towards 26 Baghramyan Avenue, the residence of the president.

Part of the protesters led by Hovannisian chose to take another route towards Tsitsernakaberd bypassing Baghramyan Avenue. Another, apparently hardline group of opposition activists, including Nikol Pashinyan, Andreas Ghukasyan and others, however, continued the standoff with the police not far from the presidential compound.