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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs