Vote 2013: Armenia in for most bizarre election in its history

Vote 2013: Armenia in for most bizarre election in its history

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Armenia is having the most “latent” presidential elections ever as three days before the official start of the nominations it is not yet clear who will form the lineup of the strongest rivals to incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan. Some expert circles view it as a result of indifference and distrust existing in society towards the elections and the political forces’ ignoring public opinion.

Nominations will take place from December 25 to January 5 to coincide with the most frantic period of preparations for and celebration of the New Year and Christmas (January 6). People who are now busy preparing for the feast marathon, will, in fact, later be confronted with a list of candidates that most of them have nothing to do with. The timing of the nomination stage (coinciding with the holiday season) is imposed by the Constitution in accordance with the calculation of days remaining before Election Day, but it only emphasizes the complete detachment of society from political processes.

Though, there are already first indications of the coming decisions in the opposition camp. Former Prime Minister and current member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) Hrant Bagratyan said the Monday convention of his Liberty Party, which is part of the ANC, will consider nominating him as a candidate in the February 18 election. At the same time, through his Facebook account, Bagratyan said that he will not run for president if ANC leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan decided to join the fray.

Apparently, Bagratyan has strong doubts that Ter-Petrosyan will agree to challenge Sargsyan as he did five years ago. The convention of the former ruling Armenian National Movement, which is a core party in the Ter-Petrosyan coalition, is slated for December 22. Ter-Petrosyan is likely to announce his decision during this gathering. There is a speculation that the ANC leader may throw his political weight either behind his protégé and political heir Levon Zurabyan or MP from the “alternative” Prosperous Armenia Party Vartan Oskanian, who has long been expected to run for president, but now does not have the explicit backing of his political party that pulled out of the race withholding support to any other candidate.

At the same time, there is no shortage of other would-be candidates who have revealed their intentions to run for president in recent weeks and days. Lawyer Andrias Ghukasyan, who is a civil society activist, stands out among them. On Thursday Ghukasyan announced his election platform, which is anchored on advocacy of stronger public control, the redistribution of national wealth and the eradication of oligarchy.

Meanwhile, pollsters started to publish early forecasts concerning the February vote. According to one such poll conducted by the Baltic Surveys/The Gallup Organization and Armenian Sociological Association on December 4-16 among 1,020 respondents, as many as 49 percent of Armenian voters favor current president Sargsyan, 21 percent were ready to vote for PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan, 6 percent for ANC leader Ter-Petrosyan, ex-president Robert Kocharyan and Raffi Hovannisian of the Heritage Party would get 5 percent, according to the survey.

The poll published by Gallup Organization spokesman Rasa Alishauskene on Thursday also shows that a considerable number of the respondents whose first choice was Tsarukyan were ready to support Sargsyan as their second choice.