The two main opposition candidates in the Armenian presidential race claimed on Friday that President Serzh Sarkisian will fail to win reelection on Monday if the vote is not rigged in his favor.
One of them, Raffi Hovannisian, went as far as to declare that he will become Armenia’s next president. “The ordinary Armenian has made a choice and if we see free and fair elections on February 18 the people will win in the first round [of voting] and we will have a new presidency,” he told a news conference.
Hovannisian said he has succeeded in changing public attitudes during the almost month-long election campaign. “Did any of you think a month ago that it is possible to change the mood and consciousness of at least a considerable part of the population and restore their sense of belonging to the political process? I think that’s what has happened,” he said.
Unlike other contenders, Hovannisian has conducted much of his campaign on foot, randomly greeting people in the street as well as shops, other small businesses and even Sarkisian’s campaign offices across the country. Handshakes with voters have been a hallmark of the affable opposition leader’s presidential bid.
Armenia - Opposition presidential candidate Hrant Bagratian campaigns in Armavir province, 5Feb2013.
Hrant Bagratian, the other opposition candidate, also predicted an election defeat for the incumbent president as he campaigned in Armenia’s central Aragatsotn province. “Serzh Sarkisian’s resources are not proving sufficient for reelection,” Bagratian told more than 100 people that gathered to listen to him in Araler village.
“The main reason for that is that the country has practically not developed in the last five years,” he said. “If we managed to eliminate this atmosphere of fear in the republic then I think the authorities’ competitiveness would be quite low and they could not last long.”
Most Armenian pundits believe that Sarkisian will cruise to a landslide victory in the polls not least because of what they see as his heavy reliance on government levers. The fact that that Sarkisian’s arguably most popular potential challenger, businessman Gagik Tsarukian, is not in the running is also widely regarded as a key factor.