Armenia vs. Sargsyan20.02.2013 | 16:53
Results of the presidential election in Armenia impressed many people. According to preliminary data, the election won the incumbent president Serzh Sargsyan with 58.6% of votes. But here is another surprise: the main Sargsyan's rival, the leader of the opposition party "Heritage" Raffi Hovannisian has managed to gain 37% of the votes. How has he managed to do that?
As experts say, the high support to Hovannisian in the election is connected to refusal of more significant parliamentary political forces - the "Prosperous Armenia" Party (PAP), the block "Armenian National Congress" (ANC) and the "Dashnaktsutyun" (ARF) from participation in the presidential race. In fact, the protesting mass, in the absence of other political forces, has supported not Raffi Hovannisian, but the one who was against Serzh Sargsyan.
Now, when Hovannisian earned a considerable political capital (about 40% of the electorate), he can claim to be the main opposition leader. He thus is overshadowing the ANC, ARF causing significant damage to "Prosperous Armenia", which had won more than half a million votes in the recent parliamentary election. The leader of the PAP, a major oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan, was considered a potential Sargsyan's competitor in the election, but he refused to participate, declaring his neutrality. It was like a tacit support of the incumbent president, which hit hard Tsarukyan's rating.
In the Armenian political field Raffi Hovannisian (origins from the U.S.) is considered a pro-Western politician standing for integration in the EU and not speaking Russian. His score in the election is treated as an extension of the Armenian public sympathy to the Western segment. After the voting, the political arena is wondering how Hovannisian will use his political capital. Whether he intends to accept the outcome of the election or to initiate post-election rallies?
Hovhannisyan's answers to these questions at yesterday's rally in Yerevan were original. First, the leader of "Heritage" declared himself "president-elect of Armenia" and said he would challenge the official results of the vote. He also called on president Serzh Sargsyan to meet and "hand over power to the Armenian people". The politician has promised to submit a draft of the new government, which may include representatives of the PAP, the ANC, the ARF, and even the Republican Party. He gave the officials a day for reflection.
Meanwhile, experts say, Hovannisian's success in the election can play into the hands of the current authorities. Armenian leadership can play the Raffi "card" if the country has to choose between the EU and the Customs Union (which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan). Deputy Director of the Caucasus Institute, political scientist Sergey Minasyan believes that Hovannisian can use his political capital to expand the field of maneuvering between the two poles, but "it does not mean that Hovannisian's electorate is fully focused on the West".
"The people voted for the leader of the "Heritage" not because of his "American accent", not because of his rather pro-Western course than the other candidates. Most likely, the politician has appeared in the right time in the right place. He has managed to significantly rally the protest electorate. These were the people who voted for the West against Russia, they voted against Serzh Sargsyan", Minasyan said in an interview to "Big Caucasus", recalling that in the parliamentary election in May 2012, Hovannisian's party hardly overcame five percent threshold and entered Parliament.
Experts are also of the opinion that the election results are a kind of a "yellow card" from the people to the current authorities. It may be followed by a "red card" if the government does not take real reforms aimed at qualitative changes in the lives of people.
"Votes that Raffi managed to score were obtained solely due to the fact that neither second, nor third and even fourth politically significant parties (PAP, ARF and ANC) had decided to participate in election", said the expert.
Meanwhile, the head of the Russian State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky (LDPR) stated in Yerevan that after the election of Sargsyan the strategic partnership between Yerevan and Moscow would deepen further.
It is worth noting that the political career of Raffi Hovannisian is quite interesting. Son of the famous Armenian historian Richard Hovannisian, he was born in the United States. In 1970-1980, Hovannisian learned and taught in well-known colleges of the United States. In 1989, he founded the Union of Armenian lawyers and headed it. Since January 1990, after returning home, he headed the office of the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA). He was the first foreign minister of independent Armenia (1991-1992 years), when the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union was in flames and ruins of the Karabakh war and Spitak disaster.
However, he held the office not very long. In 1992, Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian sent him to resign after he raised the issue of the Armenian genocide at the Istanbul meeting of the Council of Europe. In 1993, he founded in Yerevan Armenian Center for National and International Studies, and headed it. In May 2007, his party "Heritage" entered Parliament. In 2012, the "Heritage" also entered the Parliament.