By Artem Chernamorian in Gyumri
The main opposition candidate in the upcoming repeat by-election to the Armenian parliament in the northwestern Shirak province unexpectedly announced on Monday that he is dropping out of the extremely tense race.
Vartan Makeyan of the opposition Democratic Fatherland party, whose complaints led the Constitutional Court to annul the official results of the vote originally held on May 16, said he is withdrawing his candidacy because his supporters are facing “pressure and intimidation” from his pro-government rival. “This only proves that normal elections can not be held under these authorities,” Makeyan told a news conference in Gyumri, the provincial capital.
According to official figures, he was narrowly defeated on May 16 by Hakob Matilian, the leader of the Shirak branch of the pro-government Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Makeyan and his party alleged massive fraud, saying that the local authorities and security apparatus did everything to secure Matilian’s victory.
Some of the allegations were endorsed by the Constitutional Court which ruled late last month that the by-election must be re-run. The repeat vote was scheduled for July 14, with buoyant Democratic Fatherland leaders preparing for another showdown.
However, their mood changed drastically after another pro-opposition candidate in the local constituency, Artur Kirakosian, quit the race on Sunday. Makeyan indicated that he might have continued his campaign if Kirakosian had stayed on, fueling speculation about a secret deal cut by the two candidates.
But Kirakosian, who works as an editor at a local television station, denied any deals. He said he quit because he stood no chance of winning the election.
The latest withdrawals leave Dashnaktsutyun’s Matilian as the only candidate seeking a parliament seat from the Shirak constituency and make his victory a forgone conclusion. Contacted by RFE/RL, he declined to comment on his rival’s surprise move.