With only days to go before Armenia’s Feb. 18 presidential election, all signs point to a victory for incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan. Should he be re-elected as expected, Armenia will most likely maintain its status quo, which saw Yerevan open modestly to the West and Euro-Atlantic initiatives but ultimately remain bound to its longstanding alliance with Moscow.
Sargsyan is likely not only to win the election handily but also to easily clear the 50 percent threshold required to prevent a second-round runoff. With Armenia’s opposition badly fractured and handicapped by the noncandidacies of two of the most credible opposition figures -- former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan -- Sargsyan has little to fear from the vote. Despite widespread popular dissatisfaction over a sharp rise in poverty during Sargsyan’s term, which the ruling Republican Party blames on the effects of the global financial crisis, none of the current crop of opposition candidates seems able to break through the government’s political machinery and the pervasive public cynicism over the process.
The campaign has not been without its share of drama, however. Paruyr Hayrikyan, a Soviet-era dissident and presidential candidate, was shot and wounded in an apparent assassination attempt outside his home on Jan. 31. Within days, two alleged perpetrators were arrested and confessed to the crime, though their motives are still unclear, which has predictably given rise to rumors and competing theories.