Oppositional Force Joins the Race for the Presidency, Outcome still Determined

It’s official, Raffi Hovannisian is running for the Presidency. Hovannisian is the founder and head of the Heritage party of Armenia. He was born in the United States but returned to Armenia after the 1988 Gyumri earthquake and later became the first Foreign Minister of Armenia.

Hovannisian is essentially the voice of the opposition in Armenia.* For the last five years, the two largest parties, the Republicans and Prosperous Armenia, had formed a coalition. After the 2012 parliamentary election that coalition has broken up, with the Republicans retaining dominancy in parliament. Thus, the role that the current opposition plays is unknown if Prosperous Armenia becomes the “real” opposition. Prosperous Armenia received more than double the votes in the parliamentary election than the Heritage party and Armenian National Congress combined. The weakening of the past opposition is furthered by the fissures that have developed within the Congress, including the possibility of splitting.

Hovannisian is also loved by liberal westerners who enjoy using terms like the “rule of law.” Thus,  Hovannisian as an opposition force automatically promotes the union between the Republicans and Moscow. Whether or not closer ties to Russia is good for Armenia is up to debate, but unsurprisingly, many western-trained Armenians want Armenia to embrace the policies and economic opportunities of Europe.

Realistically, whether Hovannisian runs or not, the outcome is predetermined. Without any “election irregularities” or vote buying—which will likely occur—the current president, Serzh Sargsyan, will win. As stated in the above article, many local Armenians are upset with Armenia’s lack of economic development, but without “an organized and [] united opposition in Armenia’s current political spectrum” there really is no choice besides the current party. On the plus side, the current party ensured that “they’re doing something” by raising the minimum wage from 32,500 drams ($81.25) to 35,000 ($87.50) a month.

*Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the first president, is the head of the ANC opposition block, but it’s hard to paint him as an opposition figure. In his views and methodologies he is similar to the current people in power.

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