Armenians will be voting for president in February, but it looks like they will have to defer expectations of a genuinely competitive election.
The incumbent, Serzh Sargyan, would have been the favorite in any event. But now he is widely expected to cruise to reelection in the February 18 poll. That’s because, in a surprise move, Armenia’s largest opposition parties are opting out of the presidential contest, announcing they will not field candidates. The decision leaves a sizeable question mark over whether or not the election will enhance, or further damage, the Armenia’s democratization image.
While it appears Sargsyan won’t have to break a sweat during the campaign, he still will face token opposition on the ballot. The diverse array of pretenders to the presidency includes a specialist in Armenian epic poems and a 45-year-old unemployed man. The field also features a former foreign minister and a former prime minister. But none of the challengers possesses the level of political heft needed to pose a credible threat to the Republican Party of Armenia’s 13-year-plus hold on power.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am. Anahit Hayrapetyan is a freelance photojournalist also based in Yerevan.