Armenians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president tasked with managing their struggling economy and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Under Armenian law, the candidate who garners more votes is to be declared president.
Two candidates remained in the running after the February 19 first round of the election. Here are their brief profiles.
Stepan Demirchian, 43
An electrical engineer by training who has managed a largely stagnant electronics plant in Yerevan since 1988. He is the younger son of the late Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian -- a fact which has greatly contributed to his successful election campaign. Demirchian is backed by the People’s Party of Armenia, founded by his father in 1998, and 12 other opposition groups. Demirchian promises to revive those Soviet-era industries which can successfully operate in a market-based economy. He also pledges to ensure the rule of law, combat corruption and fill the government with “honest and competent” specialists.
Robert Kocharian, 48
An electrical engineer by training who was born in and governed Nagorno-Karabakh from 1992 until he was appointed Armenian prime minister in 1997. Kocharian became president in 1998 shortly after he and the key government ministers forced then President Levon Ter-Petrosian into resignation. Kocharian says that the socioeconomic situation in Armenia has improved under his rule. His economic program promises a “further strengthening of the foundations of liberal economics and property rights.” If reelected, Kocharian vows to ensure continued economic growth of 8 to 12 percent per annum, improve public services and turn Armenia into “the most organized state of the region.” That, he says, would translate into at least 35,000 new jobs each year. Kocharian also says Armenia should seek closer ties with both Russia and the West in line with its “complementary” foreign policy. On the question of Nagorno-Karabakh, he promises to achieve “international recognition” of the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination. Kocharian is supported by more than a dozen political groups, notably the Republican Party of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).