Vote 2013: Search for single candidate still on as Armenia gets ready for presidential campaign

While many political analysts believe that the presidential election scheduled for February 18 will be the day of re-election for current head of state Serzh Sargsyan, the candidates running against him continue to seek avenues to mount a challenge to the incumbent.

National Self-Determination Union (NSDU) Chairman Paruyr Hayrikyan has declared his readiness to become a single candidate “if all presidential candidates who are included to unite prove really ready to restrain their ambitions for the establishment of an influential reformist force.”

At a press conference on Thursday Hayrikyan, a Soviet-era dissident, said that he considered consolidation around programs to be a necessary condition for an ultimate united platform.

Earlier this week, Petros Makeyan, the leader of the Democratic Homeland party, a member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) not contesting the upcoming election, called on three opposition candidates participating in next month’s presidential ballot, namely Hayrikyan, Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian and Liberty Party leader Hrant Bagratyan (who suspended his membership in the ANC after being nominated to run for president) to decide on a single candidate among themselves for the opposition to consolidate around him.

Hayrikyan does not insist that he become the joint candidate, but he believes that his status as such is the best option.

“We need to come to agreement around programs and decide who can implement these programs in the best way,” said the NSDU leader, who earlier said if elected he would serve only up to two years, during which period he would carry out a constitutional reform to abolish the presidential post and making the prime minister’s post an elected one.

Bagratyan and Hovannisian have not yet responded to Hayrikyan’s statement. Hovannisian was on a visit to France on Thursday, while Bagratyan has been preoccupied with publishing his program related to different directions and concept of political reforms through Facebook, as well as responding to proposals and criticism of FB users.

Hovannisian has repeatedly said that he supports the idea of abolishing the post of the president and that, if elected, he will be “the last President of Armenia”. Bagratyan’s concept of political reform, however, has no provision on abolishing presidential power.

In the meantime, certain relatively smaller political parties not participating in the elections have been making statements about supporting one candidate or another. For example, one of the Armenian National Congress member parties, Christian Democratic Revival, has announced its endorsement of Bagratyan. Some reports indicate that former Heritage ally Free Democrats may also endorse Bagratyan as a presidential candidate.

Another opposition party not having a candidate of its own in the current elections, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), stated that its General Assembly had authorized the Supreme Council to follow the campaign and make a statement. Earlier, Dashnaktsutyun ruled out any possibility of endorsing the ruling party candidate.

And finally People’s Party Chairman Tigran Karapetyan stated that he was not going to back any of the eight candidates running for president in Armenia, as he thought the entire electoral process was a fake and the nominated candidates were only stooges.