By Ruzanna Stepanian
A leader of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) predicted on Thursday that next year’s parliamentary election in Armenia will be “unusually tense” and could therefore fall short of democratic standards.
Vahan Hovannisian, who is also deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, argued that it will take place less than a year before the next presidential election. Members of the ruling regime that are keen to succeed President Robert Kocharian in 2008 will “pay any price” to win the 2007 vote, he said, adding that Dashnaktsutyun will likely field its own presidential candidate.
The Armenian authorities are under growing Western pressure to end their country’s post-Soviet history of electoral fraud. Kocharian and other top officials assure visiting U.S. and European officials that they will do their best to make sure that the next polls are free and fair.
Hovannisian, whose party is represented in Kocharian’s coalition government, admitted that he is not sure this will be the case. “Whether I believe the elections will be [free and fair] or I believe they could be are totally different things,” he told reporters. “I hope they will be [free and fair] because I believe they could be.”
Dashnaktsutyun challenged the official results of the previous parliamentary election held three years ago which gave it roughly 10 percent of the vote. But the nationalist party chose to join the government along with two other pro-Kocharian parties, which it accused of committing serious violations, citing the need to maintain political stability in Armenia.
Leaders of the Armenian opposition claim that the 2007 election will also be falsified. Some of them have already threatened to boycott it, saying that the country’s democratization is impossible without regime change.
Hovannisian disagreed with their pessimism, comparing it with widespread skepticism about chances of Armenian victory in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. “If we, for example, had no hope in 1991, we would not have achieved anything in Karabakh,” he said. “It looked in 1991 and even 1992 as though there was no way we could prevail in Karabakh. We hoped that we could prevail and we did. So one should always have hope.”