By Edmond Y. Azadian
The February 18 presidential election produced a new and unexpected political landscape in Armenia. Based on parliamentary elections of last May, most of the pollsters were forecasting an uneventful presidential election, ranking the incumbent President Serge Sargisian as the uncontested front-runner.
In all, seven candidates were competing but the pollsters had been predicting only single-digit percentage of the votes to every other contender including Raffi Hovannisian, founder of the Heritage Party, which had barely met the 5-percent requirement at the parliamentary elections last May. Literally, they received 6 percent of the votes.
But at the conclusion of the presidential election, the pollsters were surprised to find out that Hovannisian, in fact, had garnered 37 percent of the votes. Perhaps that result even surprised the candidate himself.
This unforeseen outcome will have a far-reaching impact on the political developments in Armenia for a long time to come. To begin with, Raffi’s strong showing demotes Levon Ter-Petrosian’s HAK (Armenian National Congress) coalition as the major oppositional force. The coalition, lately, was striving to reform itself as a full-fledged political party, after many defections. Therefore, a tectonic shift occurred in the opposition camp.
It is yet too early for Hovannisian to be intoxicated with his election results, because most of the votes cast in his favor are actually votes against the present administration. People are desperate and they don’t anticipate any improvement in their plight. The rich are getting richer and they are demonstrating their obscene level of opulence in an arrogant manner, while the majority is sustaining a life below the poverty level, or abandoning the homeland and heading away, towards an uncertain future.