News / Europe

After a Short, Rocky Campaign, Armenians Vote Monday for President

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian at campaign rally in Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 15, 2013Armenian President Serge Sarkisian at campaign rally in Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 15, 2013
x
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian at campaign rally in Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 15, 2013
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian at campaign rally in Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 15, 2013
James Brooke

Armenians are voting for president on Monday.


In a rarity for the former Soviet Union, Armenia will have a genuine multi-party contest.

But the race has been rocky for this landlocked nation of 3.2 million people in the southern Caucasus.


Of the eight original candidates, one has dropped out, a second refuses to vote, a third refuses to vote and is on hunger strike, a fourth was shot in an apparent assassination attempt, and a fifth fears arrest after Monday’s vote because he knew the suspected shooter.


Of the last three candidates, two were charging fraud, even before the first ballot was cast.

 

Polls indicate that voters, aching for stability and economic development, will vote heavily for the eighth candidate, President Serzh Sargsyan. His victory would give another five years to the already 13-year rule of his Republican Party.

 

"In many ways the outcome is fairly certain," said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center think tank in Yerevan. "The incumbent president, Serzh Sargsyan, is very likely to be re-elected to a second term, and largely as a reflection of a lack of a credible or viable contender or challenger. In other words, once again in Armenia, the political opposition was unable to unite behind a unified candidate."


This time the three strongest opposition parties not only did not unite, they decided not to field candidates.

 

The last time Armenians voted for president, in 2008, the country was so polarized that the election of Sargsyan sparked street fighting in central Yerevan. When the tear gas cleared, 10 were dead, hundreds were wounded and 150 were in jail.


Eduard Sharmazanov, deputy president and Speaker of Armenia’s National Assembly, said that this time the election will be the ‘cleanest’ since Armenia won independence from the Soviet Union 21 years ago. In comparison to the last presidential race, he said that all candidates have full freedom of assembly and access to television and radio.

 

Raffi Hovhannisian, a former foreign minister born in California, is expected to come in second on Monday. He said fraud is highly possible because about 700,000 Armenian citizens are on voter lists in the country, but work outside this impoverished nation.


"Those absent 700,000 citizens and the fact that their names are on lists, and are not separated from the resident Armenians, forms the basis for major fraud, for multiple voting, and for major problems that we have had in the past," he said.


Hovhannisian denounced as "Armenian math" the fact that 200,000 Armenians emigrated to find work outside Armenian since 2008, but during the same time electoral rolls expanded by 200,000 voters.


Another candidate, Andrias Gukasyan, voiced a common opposition charge, that the president is using the government machinery to ensure his reelection. Gukasyan, owner of a radio station, has spent the entire campaign on a hunger strike.


VOA found him across the street from Armenia’s parliament, camped in a tented marked in English and Armenian: "Stop the Fake Elections!" He charges that President Sargsyan is using government employees and government money to turn out the pro-government vote.

 

Gukasyan looks gaunt. He has lost 15 kilos during his hunger strike. To cheer him up, a traditional singer stopped by to fill his tent with song.


But another candidate, 63-year-old Paruyr Hayrikyan, saw no reason for levity. Two weeks ago, a man walked up and shot him in the right shoulder.


Hayrikyan spent years in Soviet labor camps, then in exile. He said he sees the hand of Moscow behind the attack. "It means that KGB agents are working," Hayrikyan said.
 

Despite the campaign jolts, the election seems to have generated little public interest.


"The only challenge to the government today is from a low voter turnout, reflecting a rather lackluster campaign where public interest and public engagement is rather less than usual," said Giragosian, the think tank director. "In other words, this is our least competitive election in Armenia’s recent political history."


For a race that started with eight competitors, Armenia’s election now looks predictable.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid