The OSCE/ODIHR Election Monitoring Mission issued an interim report on 7 February in which it described the first two weeks of the presidential Election Campaign in Armenia as “low-key and of limited visibility”. The Mission has strived to go through the motions of monitoring the campaign despite the somewhat bizarre circumstances that have surrounded this election.
One of the eight candidates in the election formally withdrew from the race on 8 February. The Central Elections Commission duly accepted his withdrawal and cancelled his candidature. Aram Harutyunyan call for the other six candidates challenging incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to withdraw from the race has so far been unheeded. Another Presidential candidate Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the campaign started on 21 January. Speaking to journalists two weeks later Ghukasyan lambasted the OSCE/ODIHR Election Mission which he said was there to legitimise a fraudulent election. He accused the mission of misleading the Armenian people and called on them to pack up their bags and leave.
Yes. No. Yes. No…… Yes. Maybe. No
Immediately after the shooting of Presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrekian earlier this month speculation started about a possible postponement of the election. The Armenian Constitution enables a Presidential candidate to petition the Constitutional Court asking for a deferment in case of extraordinary circumstances. It was perceived that the shooting disabled Hayrekian at least for some days during the campaign and that asking for a deferment was a legitimate demand and might be considered. There however followed a period of indecision on the part of Hayrekian which has not helped make an already troubled election campaign any better. First Hayrekian said that he would not ask for a deferment, than he changed his mind, not once but several times, than he submitted a request for a deferment at the very last moment allowed by law, only to withdraw it the following day. There were in the meantime a number of conditions and provisos raised by Hayrekian, all of which were external to the main argument of whether or not he had been put at a disadvantage by the shooting to the extent that an election postponement was necessary.
Despite a spirited attempt by the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to keep the campaign on track and to canvass for votes in a traditional manner the lack of a visible opponent, the overwhelming advantage of incumbency and the decision of a number of political forces to keep aloof from the process has made this election look very peculiar.