The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) officially confirmed on Friday that President Serzh Sarkisian will top the list of its candidates to be fielded for the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief party spokesman, also made clear that HHK considers itself the election “favorite.”
“I am officially announcing this for all those who have spread different rumors and expected something different,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The party’s proportional representation list will be headed by Serzh Sarkisian.”
“Just like in all normal countries, the party must be led by its leader. We have one leader and that leader is Serzh Sarkisian,” he said.
Sarkisian, who has headed the HHK since 2007, will thus be the first Armenian president to formally run for the National Assembly while in office. In his previous capacity as prime minister, he already led the HHK to a landslide victory in the last parliamentary elections marred by opposition allegations of vote rigging.
Sharmazanov, who is also a deputy speaker of the outgoing Armenian parliament, declined to comment on who will occupy other top positions on the HHK’s electoral list. He said the list will be drawn up and publicized after a party congress scheduled for March 10.
Echoing statements by other senior HHK figures, Sharmazanov confirmed that the ruling party intends to retain its majority in the National Assembly. “The Republican Party -- and the [recent] local elections demonstrated that -- is the main, if not the only, favorite in this electoral race,” he said.
Armenian opposition groups have strongly criticized the local polls swept by HHK candidates. They have accused Sarkisian’s party of bribing and bullying many voters and planning a similar scenario for the May elections. Sharmazanov shrugged off the opposition allegations.
The Armenian authorities insist that they will do their best to make the upcoming vote the most democratic in the country’s history. Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian repeated these assurances at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador John Heffern on Friday.
In a statement, Sarkisian’s press service quoted Heffern as praising the Armenian government’s declared efforts to ensure the proper conduct of the vote. “We welcome all government steps and legislative initiative to give the opposition serious leverage which are aimed at holding free, fair and transparent elections,” Heffern said, according to the statement.