By Hovannes Shoghikian and Ruzanna Stepanian
The candidate of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) complained on Monday that many Armenians view the upcoming presidential election as a two-horse race between their current and former leaders and could ignore other candidates opposed to both rival camps.
“The people are faced with an artificial choice,” Vahan Hovannisian said during a campaign trip to the southern Armavir region.
“Unhappy with their downtrodden status, the people, especially their unconscious part, are going to elect the worst, instead of the bad,” he told voters in Parakar, a village just outside Yerevan. “But who says that we must make a choice between the bad and the worst? Why aren’t we making a choice between the good and the bad?”
By “the worst” the deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament appeared to mean former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had controversially banned Dashnaktsutyun and jailed some of its leaders, including Hovannisian, during his rule. Many local commentators regard Ter-Petrosian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian as the main election contenders, a view resented by Dashnaktsutyun. The nationalist party, which is represented in Sarkisian’s cabinet, says its candidate represents a viable alternative to the two men and political groups behind them.
Accordingly, Hovannisian has been attacking both camps in his campaign speeches. He admitted on Monday that the increasingly acrimonious relationship between the Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian camps is putting him in a difficult situation as public criticism of one side could benefit the other.
Meanwhile, Sarkisian all but wrapped up his election campaign in Yerevan Monday with rallies held in the city’s two northern suburbs, Avan and Nor Nork. He assured local residents that Armenia will not “regress” economically and in terms of human rights if he wins the February 19 election.
Sarkisian also stressed that he wants to prevail in a free and fair vote and be seen as a legitimate president. “I need your votes because I want to be a full-fledged president,” he said. “I want the president of Armenia not to be inferior to the presidents of other countries in any way.”
(Photolur photo: Hovannisian pictured against the backdrop of Sarkisian's and Ter-Petrosian's campaign posters during a rally in Tsovagyugh, a village in eastern Armenia.)