Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Tuesday urged disgruntled Armenians to turn out in large numbers for next month’s presidential election, saying that President Serzh Sarkisian’s reelection is not a forgone conclusion.
The chairman of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party also positioned himself as Sarkisian’s main challenger and expressed hope that his presidential bid will be backed by supporters of other leading opposition groups.
“It is essential that every citizen take part in the upcoming elections in good faith because the notion that these elections are predetermined, which is now being spread, is false,” Hovannisian told a news conference. He said a low voter turnout would only make it easier for the Armenian authorities to “reproduce themselves.”
“The fact that our desired candidate does not participate this time around must not be a reason [not to vote,]” he added in a clear appeal to supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) as well as the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties.
All of those opposition forces have decided not to field any candidates for the presidential ballot slated for February 18. The HAK and Dashnaktsutyun have claimed that the vote will not be free and fair. The de facto election boycotts are widely seen as a massive boost to Sarkisian’s chances of securing a second term in office.
Hovannisian implied that he deserves a broad-based opposition support not least because he himself endorsed other opposition candidates after being controversially barred from contesting Armenia’s last two presidential elections.
“We saw a solution above ourselves and overcame our egos [in 2003 and 2008,]” he said. “So I am now calling on citizens, activists, parties -- the HAK, Dashnaktsutyun, Prosperous Armenia and even the undecided section of the [ruling] Republican Party -- to participate in these elections in good faith.”
Hovannisian also made clear that he considers himself Sarkisian’s main election rival who offers Armenians a viable alternative to the current government. “It will be a fight for two Armenias,” he said of the upcoming election. “And I must say with utmost humility that it will be a struggle between Serzh’s and Raffi’s Armenias.”