The election campaign in Armenia: chances are lined up
An election campaign begins in Armenia on March 5th. There was a process of preparation and submission of the necessary documents to the CEC during the entire February. On February 25th, the CEC completed registration of the parties and blocs, which will take part in the parliamentary elections on April 2nd. 9 parties and blocs registered for the elections: the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), the ARF Dashnaktsutyun, Armenian Renaissance, Free Democrats and the Communist Party of Armenia, as well as the blocks Tsarukyan, Elk (Way Out), the ANC-PPA (Armenian National Congress - People’s Party of Armenia), Raffi -Ohanian- Oskanian (the block of the three ex-ministers - the Defense Minister, Seyran Ohanian, and the former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Raffi Hovhannisyan and Vardan Oskanyan).
Judging by the resources and influence, the main players in the electoral battle will be the RPA and four blocks. The RPA, the abilities of which to use the rigging machine have significantly reduced due to the amendments to the new Electoral Code, is likely to focus on the use of the administrative and financial resources. The opposition is already concerned by a possible bribing of the electorate, which is usually performed by covering the utility debts of the voters by the Republican Party or a simple distribution of money. It is believed, that the average size of the pre-election bribes has increased from 5 to 10 thousand drams, which is an equivalent to $ 20. The experts and opposition politicians have expressed regret over the fact that the bribery factor is active in the country: not by100%, but by 30% in Yerevan, and this number exceeds 50% in the rural areas.
As before, the chances of the Tsarukyan Block, which the majority of the analysts believe to be an alternative to the authorities, are estimated as high. The main factors of its success are considered the financial and human resources of the block, as well as a broad layer of society, whose social problems are raised by this political force. Tsarukyan does not touch upon the issues of the foreign policy and human rights, emphasizing the socio-economic issues in his speeches - these issues are of a great concern for the vast majority of the population in Armenia today. The fact that he occasionally decides the small-scale social problems, such as ensuring the territory for the fair traders or construction of some object, affects positively his approval rating. The Tsarukyan Block is at the forefront in the field of the alternative election, but the experts doubt in the independence of this power, questioning that a businessman of such scale as Gagik Tsarukyan can be really independent in today's Armenia.
Some observers have expressed doubts that the Elk block (Way Out) is opposition, believing that it is government’s project aimed at pulling the protest votes away from the real opposition, represented by the bipartisan bloc ANC-PPA. The chances of the latter have been estimated as low, although some experts believe that the ANC-PPA block is able to overcome the 7% barrier to enter the National Assembly.
The most difficult situation has emerged around the block of the three ex-ministers. If the block of the billionaire Tsarukyan has occupied the niche of the social problems and acts tom the socialist position, the Elk block positions itself as a pro-Western force, it is unclear what niche can be taken by the Ohanian-Raffi-Oskanian block. Few people in Armenia believe that the ex-Defense Minister has suddenly become an opposition leader. An important obstacle in the block’s activity in the protest field has become the involvement of Ohanyan and Oskanian in the events of March 1st 2008. What is more, many of the media write openly, that the true patron of the block is the ex-president Robert Kocharyan. This obstacle casts a shadow on the image of the alliance.
However, this is only a pre-launch political picture, the main events are expected in the course of the election campaign on March 5—31. The observers do not rule out surprises, and even sensations.