Armenia is voting in presidential polls today with incumbent leader Serzh Sargsyan set for victory in an election watched closely as a test of the ex-Soviet state’s democratic credentials but marked by an absence of any serious opposition challenge.
The holding of the election was in doubt until almost the last minute following an assassination attempt against one hopeful, Paruyr Hayrikyan, but the vote is going ahead after he declined to request a delay.
The authorities will be above all hoping for peaceful polls to improve prospects of European integration after the disputed presidential elections that brought Sargsyan to power in 2008 ended in clashes leaving 10 people dead. Sargsyan has called for the elections to be “exemplary,” saying that the landlocked and resource-poor country has “no future” if its polls cannot correspond to European standards. Most opinion polls give Sargsyan a strong lead and fractured opposition forces have failed to find a common challenger to the incumbent leader.
The highly popular leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, former arm wrestling champion Gagik Tsarukian, said he was out of race. Another potential heavyweight candidate, Armenia’s first post-Soviet president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, said that at age 68 he was too old for the country’s top job. The Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan and former premier Hrant Bagratian are the other main figures among seven challengers to Sargsyan. /HurriyetDailynews/