Ter-Petrosian Ally Blasts ‘Sham Election’

Ruzanna Stepanian

A senior member of Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Wednesday called Armenia’s upcoming presidential election a sham and rebuked other opposition leaders for participating in it.

Echoing the HAK’s official position, Lyudmila Sargsian, the leader of one of a dozen parties aligned in the opposition bloc, claimed that the Armenian authorities will resort to fraud to ensure President Serzh Sarkisian’s reelection.

“I don’t see anyone who can overcome Serzh Sarkisian’s administrative levers and financial resources,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Serzh Sarkisian’s reelection is already predetermined. I think that it would be unserious of the HAK to enter the fray.”

The HAK announced late last month that it will not field or support any presidential candidates because it believes that chronic vote rigging makes it impossible to change Armenia’s government through elections. It pointed out in particular that that the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament blocked recently a set of HAK-drafted legal amendments designed to complicate serious fraud.

Some senior figures in the Ter-Petrosian-led alliance openly disagreed with this stance. One of them, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, decided to run for president without the HAK’s backing. Bagratian as well as another opposition heavyweight, Raffi Hovannisian, are now seen as President Sarkisian’s main election challengers.

Lyudmila Sargsian insisted that both men do realize that they have “zero chances of victory.” “Hrant Bagratian should not have nominated his candidacy,” she said. “Raffi Hovannisian should also have not done that.”

Sargsian also claimed that most of the four other individuals seeking official registration as presidential candidates are government collaborators tasked with making the February 18 vote seem competitive.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party (HHK), dismissed this claim as “ludicrous.” He said the authorities have no interest in “breeding artificial candidates.”

Sharmazanov also welcomed Bagratian’s and Hovannisian’s presidential bids, saying that they as well as another prominent candidate, Paruyr Hayrikian, “can present very serious programs and opinions to our society.” “But regardless of everything, they will be competing for second place,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Other senior HHK representatives have similarly stated in recent months that President Sarkisian will easily win a second term.