By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), resigned as deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament on Friday, citing his poor showing in the presidential election.
According to the Central Election Commission, Hovannisian finished fourth in the race with only 6.2 percent of the vote. The result was way below Dashnaktsutyun’s expectations. The influential party represented in the government had for months asserted that its candidate will at least go into a run-off with Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the election favorite.
In a written statement, Hovannisian called the February 19 vote deeply flawed, citing widespread vote buying, violence in some polling stations, ballot-stuffing and other violations. “Once again, the people’s right to express their political will freely and the dignity of our citizens were trampled underfoot,” he said.
But Hovannisian did admit that he failed to win over a large part of the electorate. “I saved no effort to keep the competition with the bounds of constructive political debate and to make our citizens vote ‘for,’ rather than ‘against,’” he said. “I tried to convince our citizens that victory is possible. I failed.”
In a clear reference to the ongoing street protests organized by another defeated presidential candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosian, Hovannisian called on Armenians to display “restraint” and bear in mind that Ter-Petrosian himself had rigged elections while in power. “Those who are trying today to follow the path of upheaval must remember and understand what a crime against our people they had committed by blatantly falsifying the 1996 presidential elections and setting in motion a vote-rigging machine which we can not stop to this day,” he said.
Hovannisian urged voters to reject their current and former rulers throughout his election campaign. He publicly complained that many of them view the vote as a two-horse race between Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian.