An alternative to the current authorities appears in Armenia



David Stepanyan, Yerevan. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza

According to preliminary data of the Central Electoral Commission, after the counting of ballots from all 1,988 polling stations, as a result of the sixth presidential elections in Armenia, incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan, having gained 58.64% (861,160) of the votes, won in the first round. His main rival, former Foreign Minister of Armenia and leader of the opposition "Heritage" party, Raffi Hovannisian, got 36.75% (539,672 votes). Other candidates received minor percentages of votes. According to the preliminary data of the CEC, 1,518,407 voters or 60.05% of the total electorate of the country voted during the election.

In general, the results of the sixth Armenian presidential elections were quite predictable. This was evidenced by a number of factors, primarily - the variegated candidates. Even before the election, it was clear that the main struggle, of course, if what happened in the country on February 18 may be called so, will take place between the incumbent president Sargsyan and Raffi Hovhannisyan. The remaining candidates were only an appropriate backdrop for the planned performance. And they brilliantly performed their role in this play written by those in power; some did it consciously, others not, and some for their own purposes. It is noteworthy that, to all appearances, the team of republicans led by Serzh Sargsyan did not intend to get 70-80% of the votes. In the current post-Soviet sad reality, when the leaders of some countries "gain" up to 99% of the votes, the republicans could only, so to speak, get 50% + 1 votes, in order to prevent a second round with the participation of the fairly unpredictable Raffi Hovannisian. This task was carried out by the republicans, and with an "extra" 8.9 percent, since a minimal gap could allow Hovannisian to demand a recount. Today, Serzh Sargsyan, at first sight, at last, gained legitimacy, at least in the eyes of the international community, the lack of which he felt after the previous presidential election in 2008 followed by the tragedy and loss of life on March 1.

This is shown by a preliminary assessment of the presidential election by the representatives of the international observation missions. 6251 representatives of 26 community organizations and 632 observers of twelve international organizations, including the ODIHR, the mission of the CIS, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the International Expert Center for Electoral Systems (ICES) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) followed the election in the country. One way or another, but they are able to become aware of the fact that the elections in Armenia were held. And they considered all recorded violations as insignificant and not affecting the final outcome of the election. Judging by the public response and reaction to the election results, people in Armenia do not think so. Already on February 19 in front of the Central Electoral Commission of Armenia an event "The death of stillborn democracy" was held, during which the participants laid a funeral wreath at the door of the CEC. Thus, the citizens of Armenia assessed the regular election of Serzh Sargsyan as the demise of democracy. However, media observers are also not very optimistic about the state of the electoral processes in Armenia. For instance, according to a member of the observation mission of the International Expert Center for Electoral Systems ICES, Lydia Lawson, in some areas there was delivery of voters, but the observers of the mission somehow never managed to figure out the relationship between the drivers and the voters. It is more than obvious that for Mrs. Lawson, if desired, it would be very easy to get information about the nature of this relationship from any voter or just a passer-by on the street. It so happened that in today's "democratic" Armenia, the people have to almost beg election bribes from people who tomorrow take back the same bribes taken with a vengeance, unduly increasing the price of imported foreign products and essential commodities in the first place.

Nevertheless, the Armenian oligarch monopoly forming the basis of the current government has a lot of "justifications" for it. And the first of them would be their position in case of the victory of opposition candidate Raffi Hovannisian. In his election program Hovannisian vowed to increase almost all the costs in the state budget by 50% due to forced withdrawal of unscrupulous representatives of Armenian businessfrom the "shadows", which would increase the budget by 300 billion drams. Considering the disappointing condition of Armenian small and medium-sized businesses under imposed levies, it is not difficult to imagine who would be dragged out of the "shadows" in the first place. That is why the new term of Sargsyan and all the previous government team at the helm is a vital necessity for the oligarchs.

As a result, local authorities, obeying and defending the interests of the oligarchic power, have done everything they can to prevent free elections. Typically, this was done not in Yerevan, stuffed with  international observers, but in especially remote areas. During February 18, the media were attacked by the calls of voters and representatives of Raffi Hovannisian about numerous violations of the electoral law. When the situation was out of the control of the authorities, and Hovannisian, bypassing Sargsyan, gained a substantial  proportion of the votes, the cases of ballot stuffing, driving voters, double voting, and, finally, giving electoral bribes directly at the polling stations became extremely numerous. Even the official election results confirmed that in the Shirak region Hovannisian bypassed Sargsyan. And if the election were really fair, competitive and transparent, the victory of the opposition candidate Raffi, at least, could not be ruled out.

Thus, the final point in all this action will be put not by the CEC which has already recognized the victory of Serzh Sargsyan, but by Hovannisian himself. Today, his supporters and all the citizens who voted for him are waiting for the reaction of the leader of "Heritage". And it is still unclear how Hovannisian, who repeatedly stated his readiness to protect his voters, will behave. In any case, after the refusal of the Armenian National Congress, "Dashnaktsutiun" and "Prosperous Armenia" to participate in the elections, Raffi Hovannisian and his "Legacy" were the main opposition force in Armenia and, at last, created an alternative to the current government. And 37% of the formal votes of Armenian voters are the best proof of this fact.

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