President Serzh Sarkisian reaffirmed his government’s pledges to ensure the proper conduct of Armenia’s upcoming presidential election as he continued to campaign in southeastern Syunik province on Wednesday.
Speaking at a campaign rally in the provincial capital Kapan, Sarkisian also insisted that the Armenian authorities are not responsible for what many see as a lack of strong opposition candidates in the race.
“Some people, and not only inside our country, are trying to blame us for the absence of strong rivals. As if the government’s job is to create strong rivals for itself and then heroically overcome that obstacle,” he said.
“Our task is to create a competitive environment. Our task is to enable everyone willing to run and fight [for the presidency] to fully make use of that opportunity … We have no right to blame anyone for running or not running,” he added.
In a weekend interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Sarkisian dismissed suggestions that he is not facing serious challenges to his bid to win a second five-year term in office. He said the three main opposition candidates challenging him -- Raffi Hovannisian, Hrant Bagratian and Paruyr Hayrikian -- are not necessarily less popular than other opposition leaders that chose not to enter the fray.
The latter represent three leading Armenian opposition forces. Two of them, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, have said they believe that the February 18 will not be democratic contrary to government assurances.
Sarkisian reiterated those assurances at the Kapan rally, saying that holding an election widely seen as free, fair and transparent is vital for Armenia. “If we fail to hold good elections and are accused of [electoral] abuses, it will mean that we do not deserve to lead our people,” he declared.