By Karine Kalantarian
Campaigning for the Armenian parliamentary elections officially ended on Friday, with the main political parties and blocs gearing for Sunday’s highly unpredictable voting.
Most of the contenders avoided holding campaign rallies, airing instead their last televised advertisements that have been a fixture on TV screens over the past four weeks. The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) organized an open-air concert in Yerevan for high school students who officially completed their final academic year.
Another major pro-establishment party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), gathered its activists involved in the campaign and the holding of the elections for final instructions. Party leaders said they are satisfied with their pre-election efforts.
“As a result of the election campaign, we have a greater popular understanding of Dashnaktsutyun,” one of them, Gegham Manukian, told RFE/RL. “Dashnaktsutyun has become much more recognizable.”
Dashnaktsutyun hopes that a strong showing in the elections will boost its presence in the government at the HHK’s expense.
The main opposition contender, the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance of Stepan Demirchian, wrapped up its campaign with a rally in the center of Yerevan on Thursday attended by several thousand people. Artarutyun says it intends to have the biggest faction in the new parliament by grabbing at least one third of its seats.
One of the bloc’s leaders, Shavarsh Kocharian, said the popular mood bodes well for an opposition success. “It’s obvious now that our people are prepared for free and fair elections and for living in a country that meets European standards,” he told RFE/RL.
Artarutyun faces stiff competition from another opposition group, the National Unity party of Artashes Geghamian. Geghamian also avoided public appearances on the final day of campaigning.
A total of 21 parties and alliances are in contention. The overwhelming majority of them support President Robert Kocharian in one way or another.
Each voter will be asked to cast three ballots on Sunday: for a political party, for an individual candidate and on amendments to Armenia’s constitution proposed by Kocharian. The parties will be chosen under the system of proportional representation which covers 75 of the 131 parliament seats. The remaining 56 seats are contested in constituencies across Armenia under the first-past-the-post system.
The campaign has seen virtually no debate on the proposed constitutional amendments. Kocharian himself has not campaigned for their passage, indicating that he is prepared for their defeat at the referendum.