Raffi Hovannisian, a leading opposition presidential candidate, indicated on Tuesday that he will steer clear of any violence and bloodshed in case of challenging official results of the February 18 election.
In an extensive interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Hovannisian again questioned President Serzh Sarkisian’s stated commitment to holding the cleanest election in Armenia’s history. He insisted that public sector employees are under strong government pressure to vote for Sarkisian and are in turn illegally campaigning for the incumbent’s reelection in schools, universities and other state institutions.
“If this is the free and fair election Mr. Sarkisian has in mind, then I don’t want to have anything to do with it and I won’t accept it,” said the U.S.-born leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “If things continue like this I won’t tolerate any fraud or deceit.
“I believe in an eventual electoral revolution. I believe that the Armenian people can carry out an electoral revolution.”
“But I don’t want a bloody revolution … I am not prepared to risk the life of any Armenian. On the other hand, I would not come to terms with any violation,” added Hovannisian.
Asked what he will do if he and his supporters consider official vote results rigged, he said, “I would do everything that the constitution and laws allow me.”
The remarks were a further indication that Hovannisian would avoid the kind of post-election street protests that were organized by Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the last Armenian presidential election. The Armenian authorities used lethal force to break up the non-stop protests on March 1-2, 2008. Ten people were killed and more than 100 others wounded as a result.
Hovannisian criticized Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) for effectively boycotting the upcoming election. He also seemed to fault the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun for not endorsing his candidacy, noting that Zharangutyun backed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential bid and cooperated with Dashnaktsutyun afterwards.
“I respect their decision … but I believe that their non-participation is wrong,” he said. “I believe it is especially wrong to drive their voters into nihilism, fatalism and election boycott.”
“What did people die for on March 1 [2008?]” Hovannisian asked. “Where is the continuation [of that struggle?]”