Arman Melikian, an opposition presidential candidate, on Wednesday branded the upcoming presidential election as “illegitimate” and said he will not cast a ballot on February 18.
Melikian said he will not accept official results of the election even if they do not give victory to President Serzh Sarkisian. He at the same time urged Armenians to vote for him on election day, saying that they would thereby endorse his vote-rigging allegations.
“I urge voters to go to the polls, mark my name and thereby vote not for Arman Melikian but against rigged elections,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Melikian, who is not seen as a major contender and has barely campaigned for the ballot, accused the Armenian authorities of planning to buy votes, collecting passport data and exerting other forms of pressure on voters to ensure Sarkisian’s reelection. He also pointed to the Central Election Commission’s refusal to provide detailed information about the large number of voters absent from Armenia.
The Armenian opposition claims that hundreds of thousands of bogus votes were cast on behalf of those voters for Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in the last national elections. The CEC strongly denies such allegations.
Melikian, who already ran for president in 2008, expressed hope that other opposition candidates will make similar statements ahead of the February 18 vote.
Some of them have already alleged fraud preparations during the election campaign. Raffi Hovannisian, the apparently most popular opposition contender, has threatened to declare the vote illegitimate.
Another, less influential candidate, Aram Harutiunian, pulled out of the race last week, likewise alleging that the vote will be rigged.
The Armenian authorities have repeatedly promised to do their best to hold the most democratic election in the country’s history.