Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is poised for victory in elections next week after rivals withdrew from a campaign that’s been dominated by one candidate’s attempted assassination and another’s hunger strike. Sargsyan, 59, has 69 percent support before the Feb. 18 vote, compared with 11 percent for his nearest challenger, Raffi Hovhannisyan, a former foreign minister, according to a Gallup poll published Feb. 9. Paruyr Hayrikyan, a former dissident who was shot and wounded in a Jan. 31 incident, has 5 percent backing, while Andrias Ghukasyan, who hasn’t eaten in 26 days and calls the ballot “fake,” has 1 percent, the survey showed.
Armenia, which borders Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan, is choosing a leader for the sixth time since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with a Sargsyan win set to bolster last year’s parliamentary victory for his Republican Party. While the president failed in his first term to alleviate poverty that afflicts a third of the country’s three million people, the $10 billion economy is forecast to grow more than 4 percent in 2013.
The elections’ lack of competition “reflects the sad state of today’s political reality,” said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in the capital, Yerevan. “The opposition remains fairly weak due to open divisions between prominent leaders, a lack of true grassroots-based parties and a lack of democratic practices within existing political parties.”