Ever since the two men seen as Sarkisian's most serious potential rivals
-- former President Levon Ter-Petrossian and Prosperous Armenia party
leader Gagik Tsarukian -- announced in December that they would not
participate in the ballot, many Armenian observers have predicted that
Sarkisian would win reelection easily
in the first round and warned of the potential for fraud and
ballot-stuffing that have marred virtually every election over the past
20 years and destroyed many voters' faith in the possibility of a
Opinion polls and forecasts by organizations and individual pundits corroborated those predictions of an easy Sarkisian victory.
A poll by Gallup International predicted 68 percent support for
Sarkisian, compared with 24 percent for Hovannisian, while the Russian
pollster VTsIOM predicted 61 percent for the incumbent and 24 percent
By contrast, the European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) registered a precipitous decline in support for Sarkisian in the wake of the January 31 incident in which Hairikian was shot and wounded outside his home.
A poll conducted by the EuFoA in
early February registered a 10 percent decline since January, from 68.6
percent to 58 percent, in the number of voters who said they would vote
for Sarkisian and a similar increase, from 20.8 to 33 percent, in the
number who planned to vote for Hovannisian.
It should be borne in mind also that Sarkisian had to take into account the official outcome of the 2008 ballot
in which, according to the Central Election Commission, he polled 52.86
percent of the vote compared with 21.5 percent for Ter-Petrossian.
Insofar as Ter-Petrossian was regarded as a far more serious challenger
than Hovannisian in the current election, a vote of just 53-54 percent
for Sarkisian this time around would imply a decline in his popularity,
if one assumes that most of the estimated 80,000-90,000 voters who have
emigrated over the past five years in the hope of a better life in exile
were among those who voted for Ter-Petrossian in 2008.
By the same token, the official figure of 36.74 percent for Hovannisian
calls into question the accuracy of the 21.5 percent Ter-Petrossian is
said to have garnered in 2008, and which he never accepted as an
accurate or legitimate figure.
Ter-Petrossian has not yet publicly commented on the results of this week's election.
Nonetheless, parliament deputy Lyudmila Sarkisian (no relation to
Serzh), a member of Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress, said she cannot believe that Hovannisian polled more votes than Ter-Petrossian did five years ago.
According to the official returns, Hovannisian won more votes than
Sarkisian in three districts in Yerevan, Armenia's second- and
third-largest cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor, as well as several major