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Yerevan - An Armenian presidential candidate who was shot last week will not seek a postponement to this month's election to avoid the risk of further instability in the former Soviet republic, his lawyer and other backers said on Tuesday.
Paruyr Hayrikyan, an outsider in the race in which President Serzh Sarksyan is widely expected to win a new five-year term, was shot in the shoulder on January 31 near his home in Yerevan.
He could have asked the Constitutional Court for a two-week postponement of the Feb. 18 vote, which would have raised the prospect of instability in republic in the volatile South Caucasus region that carries oil and natural gas to Europe.
Hayrikyan did not want to let that happen, a spokesman said.
“The goal of the attack was to kill Hayrikyan and organise a new elections. Taking that into consideration, we want to make sure they do not attain their goal,” Karo Yeghnukyan, a spokesman for the candidate, told a news conference.
Stability is vital to the nation of 2.3 million to woo investors and boost an economy struggling with regional isolation and the effects of a war with neighbouring Azerbaijan in the 1990s.
Violence flared after Sarksyan's election in 2008, leaving 10 people dead when police clashed with supporters of former president and opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan who protested for days on the streets of the capital.
The government imposed a state of emergency during the unrest in the landlocked nation that borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran and Georgia.
Hayrikyan's lawyer, Levon Baghdasaryan, confirmed that he would let the election go ahead as planned despite difficulties in continuing his campaign.
“Regardless of the fact that as a result of the assassination attempt insurmountable hurdles have arisen, Hayrikyan will not appeal to the Constitutional Court with a demand to postpone the day of presidential election,” he said.
Doctors have removed the bullet and said Hayrikyan's life was not in danger, but he remained in hospital on Tuesday. Police have not named any suspects.
Hayrikyan, a pro-Western former Soviet dissident, said hours after the shooting that he suspected a foreign secret service and suggested he was referring to Russia, which is Armenia's main ally and has a military base on its territory.
Its relations with Azerbaijan have been severely strained since a war over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenians, which killed some 30 000 people before a cease-fire in 1994.
Relations with Turkey have also been fraught after Ankara closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of ethnic kin in Azerbaijan. Armenia wants Turkey to recognise mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide.
Hayrikyan, 63, leads a moderate opposition party, the National Self-determination Union and ran for president in 2003. Reuters