Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Caucasus Report

How Credible Are Official Results Of Armenian Presidential Election?

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian just before casting his ballot in the presidential election on February 18, which official returns suggest he won with more than 58 percent of the vote.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian just before casting his ballot in the presidential election on February 18, which official returns suggest he won with more than 58 percent of the vote.
According to the official preliminary returns, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian won reelection for a second term in the February 18 election with 58.64 percent of the vote.

His closest challenger, U.S.-born former Foreign Minister and opposition Zharangiutyun party chairman Raffi Hovannisian garnered 36.74 percent, followed by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian (2.15 percent), and Soviet-era dissident Paryur Hairikian (1.3 percent).

The remaining three candidates each polled less than 1 percent.

At a public meeting in Yerevan on February 19, Hovannisian rejected the official figures, declaring that he is the legitimately elected president. He publicly challenged Sarkisian to meet with him to discuss the situation, and set a deadline of late afternoon on February 20 for Sarkisian to demonstrate the "strength and manliness" to admit the outcome was rigged and to cede power "to the Armenian people."

Sarkisian has agreed to meet with Hovannisian "at any time that is convenient for him" in order to clarify Hovannisian's "somewhat incomprehensible" statements, according to Sarkisian's press secretary, Armen Arzumanian.

Ever since the two men seen as Sarkisian's most serious potential rivals -- former President Levon Ter-Petrossian and Prosperous Armenia party leader Gagik Tsarukian -- announced in December that they would not participate in the ballot, many Armenian observers have predicted that Sarkisian would win reelection easily in the first round and warned of the potential for fraud and ballot-stuffing that have marred virtually every election over the past 20 years and destroyed many voters' faith in the possibility of a democratic ballot.

Opinion polls and forecasts by organizations and individual pundits corroborated those predictions of an easy Sarkisian victory. A poll by Gallup International predicted 68 percent support for Sarkisian, compared with 24 percent for Hovannisian, while the Russian pollster VTsIOM predicted 61 percent for the incumbent and 24 percent for Hovannisian.

Precipitous Decline

By contrast, the European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) registered a precipitous decline in support for Sarkisian in the wake of the January 31 incident in which Hairikian was shot and wounded outside his home.

A poll conducted by the EuFoA in early February registered a 10 percent decline since January, from 68.6 percent to 58 percent, in the number of voters who said they would vote for Sarkisian and a similar increase, from 20.8 to 33 percent, in the number who planned to vote for Hovannisian.

It should be borne in mind also that Sarkisian had to take into account the official outcome of the 2008 ballot in which, according to the Central Election Commission, he polled 52.86 percent of the vote compared with 21.5 percent for Ter-Petrossian.

Insofar as Ter-Petrossian was regarded as a far more serious challenger than Hovannisian in the current election, a vote of just 53-54 percent for Sarkisian this time around would imply a decline in his popularity, if one assumes that most of the estimated 80,000-90,000 voters who have emigrated over the past five years in the hope of a better life in exile were among those who voted for Ter-Petrossian in 2008.

By the same token, the official figure of 36.74 percent for Hovannisian calls into question the accuracy of the 21.5 percent Ter-Petrossian is said to have garnered in 2008, and which he never accepted as an accurate or legitimate figure.

Ter-Petrossian has not yet publicly commented on the results of this week's election. 

Nonetheless, parliament deputy Lyudmila Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh), a member of Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress, said she cannot believe that Hovannisian polled more votes than Ter-Petrossian did five years ago.

According to the official returns, Hovannisian won more votes than Sarkisian in three districts in Yerevan, Armenia's second- and third-largest cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor, as well as several major towns. 

Western-Style Campaign

There is likewise little way of determining whether and how many voters cast their ballots for Hovannisian not because they wholeheartedly endorsed his election program (which calls, among other things, for the recognition by Armenia of Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region as an independent state), but because they wanted, first and foremost, to register their rejection of Sarkisian, and regarded Hovannisian as the most palatable and credible alternative.

Hovannisian incurred Sarkisian's ire by depicting the election campaign as almost a Manichaean struggle between good and evil as exemplified by "Raffi's Armenia" and "Serzh's Armenia." 

Similarly difficult to quantify is the impact of Hovannisian's Western-style campaign. Eschewing the mass rallies preferred by Sarkisian, the engaging and articulate Hovannisian instead toured various districts of Yerevan on foot, randomly greeting people in the street, shops, and other public settings, shaking hands and handing out his campaign booklets.

Laszlo Kemeny of the International Center for Electoral Systems interpreted the election results as a vote of no confidence and a wake-up call to Sarkisian. 

Kemeny was quoted as telling journalists that "this was not a struggle between two leaders; there is one leader here, but that state of affairs is not eternal, and unless there are cardinal changes in the socioeconomic life of the country, new figures do not appear in the leadership and a redistribution of political forces does not take place, then the authorities will get a 'red card' on top of this 'yellow card.'"

Hovannisian did not say on February 19 what steps he planned to take if Sarkisian ignored his ultimatum.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service in late January, however, he made it clear that he would seek to avoid at all costs a repeat of the violent postelection confrontations in 2008 between angry Ter-Petrossian supporters and police and security personnel in which 10 people died.

While stressing that he would not tolerate fraud, Hovannisian declared at the same time that "I don't want a bloody revolution...I am not prepared to risk the life of any Armenian." He said he would, however, "do everything that the constitution and laws allow me."
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Comment Sorting
by: Xosrov Abasov from: Baku
February 20, 2013 15:01
The partially free Armenian electoral process demonstrates that the ruling elites in Armenia may disagree on many issues but not Armenia’s continuing occupation of Karabakh and its strategic alliance with Russia. The presidential campaign demonstrates that no socio-political force in the country would dare put forward a compromise formula to resolve the outstanding conflict in Karabakh or re-evaluate Armenia’s unquestionable subordination to Russia.

The presence of a powerful Armenian lobby in France and the US is allowing Armenia to calm Western irritation of strong Russian presence in Armenia. As nationalism remains the guiding dogma of Armenia’s key socio-political forces, it is highly unlikely that Russian influence in Armenia would subside anytime soon. The Armenian ruling caste realizes that throughout history the Armenian nationalist project never succeeded without Russian support. The electoral process in Armenia demonstrates that the strategic status quo is to be maintained, unless the pro-Armenian regime of Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan is replaced by a representative government that would discontinue the current imitation of the liberation process of Karabakh and launch an authentic course to resolve the issue of its occupation.
In Response

by: Alex from: LA
February 20, 2013 16:15
And Azeri's would never existed if it wasn't for Turkey, what u say to that, or you guys were an nation of Azeri's, or did u call yourself Turks... Go sleep a little and hopefully wake up from your dream that you call a life...
In Response

by: Phil from: UK
February 21, 2013 13:49
I would say you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Your statement makes no sense. Instead of spewing nonsensical propaganda and making yourself look like a fool, why don’t you do some research and enlighten yourself. You sound like a adolescent who's daddy told him that he can beat all the other daddies, and you believe him because he’s YOUR daddy.

Grow up!
In Response

by: Brian from: Italy
February 21, 2013 16:43
Xosrov: "no socio-political force in the country would dare put forward a compromise formula to resolve the outstanding conflict in Karabakh". 100% correct observation, and I would add no Armenian political party, NGO, social group etc... would even contemplate on compromising on the idea of protecting one's fatherland.

Nagorno-Karabakh was and now is an integral part of Armenia, (albeit only a fragment of it, a large part is still in both Azerbaijan and Turkey) what makes you think different segments of the Armenian society would think differently on this issue?
In Response

by: Jazzgega from: Oakland, CA
February 22, 2013 05:50

Nagorno-Karabagh is a sliver of land in giant Azerbaijan in which minority Armenians (and some Azeri allies) were brutally attacked and killed in an attempt to remove them from the historical area that has been part of Armenia until new borders were crossed and kept Karabagh outside of Armenia. Karabagh is NOT an occupation. Your word "occupation" is offensive and co-opts the occupation in Palestine. Please do not misuse and cover what has really transpired in the region during and post-collapse of the Soviet Union. Would you be able to even concede that fundamentalist Azeris ERADICATED and MASSACRED Armenians in Nakhichevan?

I hope you realize that I am not a supporter of war -- and lot of things are played unfairly. I am well aware of the asymmetrical war in Karabagh, where Azerbaijan was equipped with high end artillery and was at least triple the size of the soldiers who fought to protect the rights of Armenians. I also know that because of the war many local Azeris were kicked out and shot by the Armenian army and I am certainly not turning a blind eye.

Your painting of the war and the current state in Karabagh is the very problem this cycle of violence continues. Just like Turkey adamantly refuses to acknowledge the Genocide and has brainwashed it populace by coding it as "war between Ottoman Empire and Armenian minority" and so are you asserting the same, unfortunate rhetoric of denial and propaganda.

I am willing to speak honestly on this matter but again, please do not coat this as an 'occupation' and offend Palestinians struggle against Israeli occupation. Makes you look pretty bad.
In Response

by: parvenu from: US
February 26, 2013 03:43
Coming from you... Your people owes much to Russia, including your russian sounding names (why don't you get your own?). If not for Russians you would be nothing but a rotting backwater of Iran (here is a concept- backwater of backwater:)

by: Gor from: Armenia
February 20, 2013 17:15
How can a leader who has stayed in power for more than 20 years (and Serge Sarkisian has been part of the ruling elite ever since the early 1990s) be trusted by such a significant part of the population as claimed by his team and the "bribed" election authorities? Even Churchill lost the election after leading his nation to victory in World War II. And what has Armenia achieved during the first five years of Sarkisian's presidency? Well, not much. Well, either the people are masochistic and foolish (which is not true), or something is wrong with the vote count (more likely to be the case).

by: Alex from: LA
February 21, 2013 20:02
"How Credible Are Official Results Of Armenian Presidential Election? "

How Credible Are Official Results Of G.W. Bush's Presidential Election?
Biggest scam in American history...

by: Lewis from: Seattle, WA
February 23, 2013 23:00
It's the Caucasus. Scam elections seem to be the norm.

by: Knar Mouhibian from: Los Angeles
February 24, 2013 03:27
Dear RFE RL - please check your facts and do not rely on the phony press releases. - THERE WAS NO GALLUP POLL - that was invented by Sarkisian's son-in-law state controlled media. Gallup has stated that they will sue for the misappropriation of their name

FROM: GallupHelp@gallup.com
TO: hsadoyan@yahoo.com
Hello Hakob,
Gallup, Inc. was founded by the late Dr. George H. Gallup in the United States in 1935. Gallup, Inc. is the undisputed owner of the world famous trademark GALLUP in Armenia, Registration No. 8387. The entity known as Gallup International has no right or authorization to use the GALLUP trademark. Gallup, Inc. will immediately take legal action against this imposer and hopes the Armenia people are not mislead by their actions.

Thank you,
Gallup Client Support

Please get the correct facts.

by: parvenu from: US
February 24, 2013 04:21
I think Hairikian won the election! Isn't it obvious?:)

by: azerturk from: usa
February 26, 2013 04:59
This is very interesting...Armenians from Karabakh continue to rule Armenia, first Kocharyan now Sarkisyan for the second term...In the same time Azerbaijanis from Armenia mainly ruled Azerbaijan since 1993. Heydar Aliyev was born in Sisyan district of Armenia.Now his son there...Very interesting. With my best regards.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.