By Emil Danielyan and Satenik Vantsian in Gyumri
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian was reported on Friday to say that he will win Armenia’s presidential election already in the first round of voting and dismiss opposition threats to stage post-election street protests in Yerevan.
The AFP news agency cited Sarkisian as saying that he will garner more than 50 percent of the vote on February 19, enough to avoid a potentially risky run-off with an opposition challenger.
Similar upbeat forecasts were already made by senior members of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Opposition candidates, who have pulled big crowds during their campaign rallies across Armenia, insist that the HHK leader can not win outright without large-scale vote rigging. Some of them have warned that they will dispute “fraudulent” vote results with anti-government demonstrations.
In his interview with AFP, Sarkisian said he has little fear of post-election unrest in Armenia. "I'm sure that nothing serious will take place," he said. "Over the last 15 years our law-enforcement bodies have been strengthened and can handle any tasks put before them."
Sarkisian sounded confident about his election chances also during a campaign trip to Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri on Friday. “I am confident about your choice,” he told a rally there. “I am confident that on February 20 we, together with you, will set about implementing our programs. I am confident that in four or five years from now all of us will say that we promised and we delivered.”
As was the case in his other campaign speeches, Sarkisian took a swipe at his number one challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, again not mentioning the latter by name. In particular, he accused Armenia’s former leadership of neglecting Gyumri and other areas in the country’s northwest ravaged by the catastrophic 1988 earthquake.
The current authorities in Yerevan had pledged to completely rebuild the earthquake zone by 2003. However, thousands of families there continue to huddle in temporary shelters. There are at least 3,000 such families in Gyumri alone.
Sarkisian promised that he will complete the city’s protracted reconstruction in the next five years if he becomes Armenia’s next president. “I am deeply convinced that we, together with you, will manage to restore Gyumri’s past pride,” he said. “We will turn Gyumri into a good place of residence for many, many people.”