The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) accused President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday of planning to rig next year’s presidential election to stay in power for another five years.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, pointed to statements by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) saying that the incumbent president’s victory in the vote due in February is a forgone conclusion.
The chief HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said last week that opposition candidates will only be competing for second place in the unfolding presidential race.
“When a representative of the ruling force makes such a statement he effectively means the following, ‘We are an authoritarian state that rigs elections and therefore nobody stands a chance of beating our candidate,’” said Zurabian. “This is a confession of vote rigging intentions.”
The HAK regards as fraudulent Armenia’s last presidential election held in 2008 as well as last May’s parliamentary elections. Its top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, was Sarkisian’s main challenger in the 2008 race that was marred by a deadly government crackdown on his opposition movement.
Ter-Petrosian has still not announced whether he will run in the 2013 ballot. This has fueled media speculation that he will not enter the fray this time around.
Zurabian dismissed such claims. “That doesn’t mean anything,” he told a news conference. “Every election period has its logic. We just need to understand what resources we possess, including in terms of allies. We also need to understand what issues we will face, what factors will be decisive in post-election developments.”
Some analysts have suggested that Ter-Petrosian and his political team might choose to back a presidential candidate that could be fielded by the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a former member of the country’s governing coalition. The HAK leader has repeatedly reached out to the BHK over the past year amid its growing tensions with Sarkisian’s HHK.
“I find discussion of this issue meaningless because no political force within the Congress has come up with such a proposal,” said Zurabian. “Nobody has made such a proposal.”
“We are totally focused on the scenario of Ter-Petrosian’s nomination and are not working on other options,” he stressed.