By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A top leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) claimed on Monday that the February 19 presidential election will be won by his party’s candidate, rather than Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide Bureau, also sounded upbeat about the vote’s freedom and fairness.
“Serzh will not be elected, and there will be no fraud,” Markarian told RFE/RL. He said he is confident that his party, which is represented in Sarkisian’s cabinet by three ministers, will emerge victorious from the contest.
Markarian predicted that the Dashnaktsutyun candidate, who will be nominated later this week, will at least reach the second round of voting which he said will be necessary for determining Armenia’s next president.
Local commentators agree that a run-off vote is a real possibility. But many of them believe that it would most probably pit Sarkisian against his most bitter opposition foe, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, rather than the Dashnaktsutyun hopeful.
Like other Dashnaktsutyun leaders, Markarian refused to speculate on whether the nationalist party, which has long been at loggerheads with Ter-Petrosian, would endorse Sarkisian in that case. “I don’t want to comment on that variant because I am sure we will go into the second round,” he said. “I don’t know if we will face Serzh or Levon but am sure we will reach the second round.”
The Iranian-born politician faulted in that regard the Armenian media for increasingly portraying the presidential race as a two-horse race between Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian.
Dashnaktsutyun, meanwhile, continued on Monday its improvised national vote aimed gauging popular support for its two potential presidential candidates, Vahan Hovannisian and Armen Rustamian. The party opened at the weekend makeshift polling stations in Yerevan and the rest of the country, urging Armenians to cast ballots for one of the two men. The vote, the first of its kind ever organized in Armenia, will end on Thursday, the day before Dashnaktsutyun’s pre-election congress.
Markarian confirmed that congress delegates will not be bound by its outcome in choosing the party’s candidate. But he said they will definitely “take into account” the vote results.