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Expectations of Voters of Gyumri in Social-Economic Context

Anna Hakobyan

The citizens of Gyumri, the second city of Armenia and the capital city of Shirak Province, were participating in the parliamentary snap elections on December 9 with a hope that the new government will seriously address to the solution of social problems of the Province,

According to the Statistical Committee of Armenia Shirak Province shows the highest degree of poverty in Armenia, almost 46%. Thus, the primary expectations of Shirak people from the government is still the improvement of social-economic conditions.

Gyumri resident Sirarpi Malkhasyan, 51 – unemployed, is expecting job places from the government. She is concerned with the approaches of employers who employ only young people and do not consider the competences of older and more experienced people. “I very much wish to get a job,” she said “but because of my age no one employs me.”

Emma Baghdasaryan , 37 a teacher of Gyumri public school number 20 said that after the elections a lot of people who migrated because of bad social conditions will return. “Everyone waits for job places to open so that they can come back and work in their own country,” she said.

Nine political parties and 2 coalitions are taking part in the snap parliamentary elections.

Tigran Petrosyan, an independent candidate by “Im Qaily” Coalition (My Move Coalition is leaded by Incumbent Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan) in Shirak spoke up about the priority projects being implemented in the Province.

The candidate said that one of their priority issues was to create a problem set and bring it into the political agenda. As a candidate for parliament Petrosyan considers that the problem of homelessness being out of political discourse for a long time, is one of the factors making Gyumri a disaster zone.

He mentioned the social-economic issues as second including the highest rates of child poverty and unemployment in the Republic of Armenia (RA). “These factors are a must to be included in the political agenda of the candidate represented by the Province,” he said.

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On December 7 the 30th  anniversary of Spitak Earthquake was marked. According to official data 25,000 died and 514,000 people in Gyumri lost their shelters.

“The issue of homelessness is number one problem for Gyumri. Thirty years have passed from the disaster and this issue was somehow considered both during the Soviet Union times and by the 3rd Republic of Armenia, but still it has not been completely solved,” Petrosyan said.

The candidate also compared the previous government to the new one in terms of manifestation and approaches of justice pointing that during the previous government the lack of sense towards justice in people was a bigger issue than social-economic one. “The restoration of the sense of justice, restoration of the equity of everyone before the law has to be one of the global priorities,” he said.

The priorities of the coalition “Im Qaily” also include the involvement of young people in political processes.

Gharib Harutyunyan, the Head of election office of Tigran Petrosyan  and also one of the leaders of the Spring Revolution march in Gyumri said that according to provisions mentioned in the pre-election program, young people must take part in the decision making processes related to their issues. “Today we are having a generation change in the government which will be directly addressing to the youth. During the previous system they were out of participation neither on state nor on local levels,” he said.

Young citizen from Gyumri Arman Karapetyan, 27 said that the Revolution has left its track on people in terms of bringing back their hopes and he is hoping, too for the improvement of social conditions of people very soon. He said that after the Revolution young people learned how to demand from the government: they reached that level of understanding due to the Revolution.

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Photo credit: Civilnet

According to Gharib Hautyunyan young people of Gyumri need to be provided with job and entertainment places as well an access to participation in different platforms. “A young person wants to feel the tangible result of Revolution and see that there is an ongoing process,” he said.

Hripsime Petrosyan, 33, a candidate from “Citizen’s Decision” Social-Democratic Party said that the Party’s aims include the involvement of young people in the decision-making processes and resolution of social issues.

The young candidate said that after Revolution people gained more trust towards the government, however their expectations are still about the improvement of social conditions.

Petrosyan who lives in Krashen village of Shirak Province (18 km to the North-East from Gyumri) said that living next to people in need makes her realize the seriousness of problem better. She said the voice of women in the Parliament is a diversity which is something positive. She also said that both in her community and in nearby villages migration is a fundamental problem. The main income of the families is from Russia. Since there are no job places in the villages the financial load is on the shoulders of one of the members of a family (mainly men) who leaves for seasonal work. Men do construction works  mainly in Russia and Ukraine.

Young candidate is also concerned with educational issues of girls and women in the area of Krashen and neighboring villages. “Young girls get married as soon as they finish school and stop getting high education. The quality of education is very low in villages and less accessible,” she said. Within the framework of a grant program Petrosyan is implementing social entrepreneurship project which is a prototype of a poultry farm. With a vision of extending the project she intends to create job places by allocating some part of the revenue to capacity development of women in the field of social business. Petrosyan said that villagers can make use of their own resources so that the country prospers and develops.

Even being overloaded by social-economic problems people of Gyumri are still optimistic about the elections and they do hope that the rooted issues being neglected through many years will finally start resolve at the new government’s arrival.