President Serzh Sarkisian heaped praise on his three main challengers on Tuesday as he took his reelection campaign back to Yerevan.
Sarkisian rallied hundreds of people in the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district in a gathering that was originally scheduled for Friday. It was cancelled out of solidarity with Paruyr Hayrikian, one of the main opposition contents who was shot and wounded on Thursday.
“Part of the society will certainly vote for Paruyr Hayrikian, the man who embodies the always vivid idea of independent Armenia with his life and fate,” Sarkisian told the crowd. “Another segment of the society will vote for Hrant Bagratian, the man who has his own vision for the development of our country.”
Other Armenians, continued the incumbent president, will back opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian. He said Hovannisian has become “a symbol of the patriot fighting against unacceptable practices.”
In a recent interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Sarkisian likewise insisted that he views his challengers as “competitors,” rather than “adversaries.” He claimed during his ensuing campaign rallies that his main goal is not to secure a second five-year term but to ensure that the February 18 election is the most democratic in the country’s history.
Hovannisian, Bagratian and some of the other lesser-known candidates have dismissed these assurances. They have accused the Sarkisian campaign of heavily relying on government levers.
Sarkisian has been widely regarded as the election favorite since the start of the presidential race. Opinion surveys conducted by government-linked pollsters put popular support for him at more than 60 percent. The main opposition candidates challenge the credibility of those polls, however.