Armenians have begun voting in presidential elections already marred by the shooting of an opposition candidate and the lack of any prominent alternative to incumbent Serzh Sarksyan. The government is hoping for a peaceful election that will improve the country’s prospects of European integration, after the disputed presidential elections that brought Sarksyan to power in 2008 ended in clashes in which 10 people died. Sarksyan has called for the elections to be “exemplary” and stressed that Armenia has “no future” if its polls cannot correspond to European standards. Most opinion polls give Sarksyan a strong lead and the fractured opposition forces have failed to find a common challenger to the incumbent leader. … International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe will monitor voting, which was scheduled to end at 1600 GMT.
Officials from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said they found a lack of interest in the election and a lack of confidence about the electoral process among the public when they visited the country in January.
“This is a matter of great concern, in particular given that major political parties, which were strongly expected to present presidential candidates, chose not to do so because of their lack of trust in the conduct of the election,” they said.
The outcome became predictable in December when two influential political figures capable of injecting some suspense into the campaign announced they would not run.