Who will challenge Serzh?

Serzh Sargsyan

Political repositioning is going on in Armenia ahead of the February 2013 Presidential elections. Karina Gould has been following events.

A second candidate has announced his intention to contest the February 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia. Raffi Hovannisian, leader of the opposition Heritage Party, declared on Friday his decision to challenge incumbent President, and member of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), Serzh Sargsyan in three months time. “I declare today my nomination in the upcoming presidential election,” announced the former Foreign Minister of Armenia.

Hovannisian, who was born in the United States, has been barred from running in previous presidential races as he did not meet the requirement in the Armenian electoral code that presidential candidates must have possessed Armenian citizenship for at least ten years before they are eligible to run for the country’s highest office. The Heritage Party leader served as independent Armenia’s first Foreign Minister following the collapse of the Soviet Union from 1991-1992. Ten years later, Hovannisian founded the Heritage Party in 2002 and has been elected a member of parliament for the party both in 2007 and in 2012. In September of this year he resigned his seat in Parliament with the intent to run for the presidency.

The Heritage Party currently has five seats in Parliament. “I am doing this as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia who has the will and feels his share of responsibility for today’s situation and wants to participate in overcoming this situation,” stated the newest addition to the Presidential race. Hovannisian invited “the intellectuals, activists, the political parties, all Armenians who believe that Armenia is not [the] property of one person […] to participate in the Presidential elections.” He invited “all those who want to see a country which has [democratic] values” to get involved and be active during the campaign period. “This country,” he affirmed, “is not a one party state. It belongs to the people.” Hovannisian continued that he hoped the presidential elections will meet “Armenian, not international standards.” The Heritage Party leader stressed during his announcement that he will “stand for president only once and never again.” Despite rumours to the contrary, Hovannisian remains just the second candidate to announce his entrance into the upcoming presidential race.

President Serzh Sargsyan, the RPA has explained, will be confirmed in a special party convention on 15 December, endorsing his bid for re-election.

The greatest cloud of uncertainty is hanging over the decision of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP). Will they run a candidate in the forthcoming elections, and if so, who? Media outlets in the country were reporting last week that the PAP had reached an agreement to support Sargsyan in the upcoming elections. Naira Zohrabyan, a member of the PAP dismissed the announcement as false information. “Prosperous Armenia will announce its decision when the party members consider it necessary,” Zohrabyan told reporters. The PAP, of course, initially signed a memorandum on 17 February 2011 with the RPA and Orinats Yerkir to form a political coalition. Following the May 2012 parliamentary elections, the PAP, however, left the coalition and revoked its support for the RPA. According to the PAP, the decision to leave the coalition automatically suspends any commitment they had to support the re-election of Sargsyan. It is still unclear who will represent the PAP should they decide to contest the elections, though speculation surrounds both PAP leader, Gagik Tsarukyan and ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian are the most likely candidates.

Similarly neither the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) nor the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) have announced whether or not they will field a candidate for the presidency. The leader of the ARF, Armen Rustamyan, however, hinted that the ARF would not participate in the presidential race, after describing the parliamentary elections held in May as being “predetermined” through fraudulent practices. “If there are similar violations during the presidential election, what is the point of this election? If elections are not for changing power, for the expression by citizens of their will, then they are meaningless. It is quite possible that we generally will not participate in the elections,” said Rustamyan.

Report prepared for CEW by Karina Gould with additional reporting from the Armenian press.