By Irina Hovannisian and Astghik BedevianPrime Minister Serzh Sarkisian will win Armenia’s approaching presidential elections in the first round of voting, a senior member of his Republican Party (HHK) claimed on Wednesday.
Vazgen Khachikian, who also manages the state pension fund, said Sarkisian’s landslide victory has already been predetermined by the weakness of Armenia’s fragmented opposition.
“As far as opposition is concerned, even the government of Soviet Armenia was not in such a good position,” Khachikian told reporters. “The opposition has never been so weak before.”
“I think this is sufficient grounds for our candidate to win outright in the first round,” he said.
The opposition weakness was highlighted during parliamentary elections in May which the HHK and other allies of President Robert Kocharian won by a landslide. The HHK also grabbed the absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly, a performance that significantly boosted Sarkisian’s chances of succeeding Kocharian.
Senior Republicans now say their presidential candidates victory is a forgone conclusion. “We will score a very convincing victory,” the leader of the party’s parliament faction, Karen Karapetian, predicted earlier this month.
However, leaders of the country’s main opposition groups, who consider the May elections fraudulent, say that such statements are aimed at demoralizing the opposition electorate and legitimizing fresh vote rigging. They say that no candidate can win the presidential ballot outright.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the HHK’s junior coalition partner set to nominate its own presidential candidates, takes a similar view. “We don’t think that the outcome of the presidential elections is predetermined,” a leading Dashnaktsutyun member and potential presidential hopeful, Armen Rustamian, said on Wednesday.
Echoing statements by other party leaders, Rustamian insisted that the Dashnaktsutyun candidate will at least force a run-off vote.