YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Presidential Candidate and ARF Bureau Member Vahan Hovannesian signed a symbolic social contract with the citizens of Armenia during a press conference Monday. The agreement outlines the fundamental principles and pledges of his campaign platform and is the ARF’s latest initiative in Armenia’s presidential election, slated for February 19, next year.
Hovannesian said that under the agreement he and the ARF will be committed to ensuring free and just elections, real social changes, political stability, social solidarity, and continued democratic development. The contract, he noted, is also an agreement by the voters of Armenia to work to materialize its provisions by participating in the elections and supporting the ARF.
The ARF has printed 400,000 copies of the contract and any voter who agrees with our vision and signs it will join our movement and be given a card that reads "I am with Vahan," Hovannesian said.
"One goal of this initiative is to find out our chances, to assess our possibilities," he said, adding that this is something new in the Armenian political culture and will be a fresh way for communicating with the voters of Armenia.
The current method for communicating with the voters of Armenia to assess their position in the forthcoming presidential race is inadequate and marred by several peculiarities, Hovannesian remarked.
According to Hovannesian, there is a myth in the country that the outcome of the February 19 election is a foregone conclusion and that a struggle for the presidency is meaningless. This myth, he said, is bolstered by artificial polls that make it seem as though Sarkisian’s victory is eminent.
Opinion polls conducted by the Armenian Sociological Association (ASA) and other local researchers have consistently given Sarkisian a huge lead over other election contenders. Armenian state television cited on Sunday the results of the latest U.S.-funded poll designed by the U.S. Gallup organization and conducted by the ASA.
The polling data says Sarkisian will garner 29 percent of the vote if elections were held this week. The ASA’s polling data has always reflected the official results of past Armenian elections, which have been criticized as deeply flawed and undemocratic by domestic and international observers.
“Nothing is predetermined, Hovannesian commented during the press conference. “Everything will be decided by the popular vote.” Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian is not as popular as is claimed by pro-government pollsters, he added.
Hovannesian, who is the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, also noted that the Armenian authorities have artificially increased the number of presidential candidates to facilitate Sarkisian’s victory in the presidential ballot.
“I do not believe that Serzh Sarkisian is the front runner nor do I believe that ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian enjoys the support of 52 percent of voters,” he said
A series of polls before the May 12 parliamentary elections claimed the ARF would not receive enough votes to overcome the 5 percent threshold to enter the National Assembly. The ARF received almost 13 percent of the popular vote.
In November, 280,000 voters throughout Armenia turned out during a five day poll conducted by the ARF to assess public opinion on the party’s two potential presidential candidates: Hovannesian and ARF Armenia Supreme Body Representative Armen Rustamian. Two day’s after the non-binding primary’s, a special convention of the ARF Armenia Organization echoed public opinion and voted to nominate Vahan Hovannesian as the party’s candidate.