An alliance led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian is ahead of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and all other contenders in the Armenian parliamentary race, Russia’s leading state pollster claimed on Thursday.
The All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) said an opinion poll conducted by it across Armenia late last month found that 26 percent of likely voters plan to back the bloc bearing Tsarukian’s name in the April 2 general elections. Only 19 percent of respondents said they will vote for the HHK headed by President Serzh Sarkisian, according to the poll.
VTsIOM also said only three other election contenders were likely to win seats in Armenia’s next parliament. Those are the pro-European opposition bloc Yelk and the Dashnaktsutyun and Armenian Revival parties, Sarkisian’s current and former coalition partners.
The survey also found that as much as 78 percent of Armenians are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the country. The Russian pollster claimed at the same time that Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, who leads the HHK’s election campaign, enjoys a 77 percent approval rating.
Pre-election opinion polls conducted in Armenia have long been distrusted by the opposition and most independent observers. Their findings have usually mirrored the official results of presidential and parliamentary elections marred by fraud allegations.
Boris Tumanov, a prominent Russian journalist, questioned the credibility of the VTsIOM poll.“I suspect that VTsIOM operates in close collaboration with the Kremlin,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They sometimes hold more or less objective surveys. But that’s rare.”
“They publish accurate data only on insignificant matters,” added Tumanov.
Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the key member of his bloc, finished second in the last two parliamentary elections, heavily capitalizing on his charitable activities denounced as vote bribes by critics. The tycoon again promised cash and other material aid to impoverished voters as he launched his 2017 campaign on Tuesday. Armenia’s Central Election Commission on Wednesday warned him that such pledges violate the law.
In its campaign manifesto, the Tsarukian bloc promised to significantly raise pensions and the national minimum wage, cut utility fees, end strict enforcement of traffic rules and exempt all small and medium-sized businesses from taxes for at least three years.