By Ruzanna Stepanian
The candidate of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) will be Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in the forthcoming presidential elections, a senior member of the party represented in his cabinet claimed on Thursday.
“Now that the [Sarkisian-led] Republican Party and the Prosperous Armenia Party … are acting as an alliance supporting a single presidential candidate, Dashnaktsutyun, which came in third in the [May parliamentary] elections, is becoming the number two contender,” said Artashes Shahbazian, secretary of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in parliament.
“Dashnaktsutyun is a party operating in the entire territory of Armenia. It has a viable structure, ideology, political program and team. It is becoming the main rival [of the Republican candidate,]” he told journalists
Shahbazian argued that Dashnaktsutyun won more votes than any of the opposition parties that ran for parliament.
According to official vote results, the nationalist party got 12.8 percent of the vote, earning it 16 seats in the 131-member National Assembly. The Armenian opposition refused to recognize the election outcome, alleging serious fraud.
Sarkisian, who formed a new government after his party’s landslide election victory, agreed to let Dashnaktsutyun retain three of its four ministerial portfolios despite his failure to secure its endorsement of his presidential bid. Dashnaktsutyun also made it clear that it will not bear responsibility for the work of government ministries not headed by its members.
Some opposition leaders and media commentators have speculated that the Diaspora-linked party’s main mission is to “steal” votes from opposition presidential candidates and thereby facilitate Sarkisian’s victory.
Shahbazian insisted, however, that his party will be seriously vying for the post of president and thinks that it is capable of defeating Sarkisian. “We are a political force for which contesting elections is not a means of staying in the political arena,” he said. “We take this quite seriously, which means that we have weighed up things a lot.”
“Taking into account a number of circumstances, we think that we have quite real chances [of victory,]” added the Dashnaktsutyun leader.
Dashnaktsutyun will choose its presidential hopeful at a party congress due next week. Press reports have said that two of its top leaders, Vahan Hovannisian and Armen Rustamian, are in pole position to secure the nomination.