By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) will hold a non-binding nationwide plebiscite to ascertain the popularity of its two potential presidential candidates, it emerged on Wednesday.
Spartak Seyranian, a senior party spokesman, told RFE/RL that voters across Armenia will be offered to go to polls from next Saturday through Wednesday to choose between Armen Rustamian and Vahan Hovannisian, two of the top Dashnaktsutyun leaders.
The two men, who hold senior positions in parliament, were shortlisted as potential presidential candidates during a party congress last September. The pro-establishment party is scheduled to hold another congress on November 30 to nominate one of them for the Armenian presidency by secret ballot.
Seyranian made it clear that Dashnaktsutyun delegates will not be bound by the outcome of the plebiscite, the first of its kind to be ever held in Armenia. “Naturally, it will have no legal force,” he said. “But it will be important for the party to present its candidates and to ascertain the public’s attitude to towards them.”
According to Seyranian, polling stations for the consultative vote will be located in special tents to be pitched in Yerevan and other parts of the country. There will be at least ten such tents in the Armenian capital, he said.
Dashnaktsutyun refused to endorse Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and decided to contest the February 19 elections with its own candidate despite being a member of the ruling three-party coalition. The nationalist party is increasingly distancing itself from Sarkisian’s cabinet in which it is represented by three ministers.
Seyranian dismissed speculation that Dashnaktsutyun may still endorse Sarkisian, the election favorite, if the presidential ballot requires a second round of voting. He said a run-off vote would most probably pit Sarkisian against the Dashnaktsutyun candidate.
Accordingly, Seyranian insisted that former President Levon Ter-Petrosian will not be Sarkisian’s main challenger. “I strongly believe that Armenia’s political system is not bipolar. I think the public is sick and tired of seeing things painted only in black and white colors,” he said, referring to bitter recriminations traded by Armenia’s current and former leaders.