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YEREVAN, February 17 (Itar-Tass) – A pre-election day of silence started in Armenia on Sunday ahead of the presidential elections slated for February 18. A ban on any kind of election campaigning or propaganda has been in force since midnight. The legislations of the majority of countries provide for such pauses to allow voters to make their choice without pressure.
The forthcoming elections slated for February 18 will be the sixth since Armenia gained independence. A law on institution of the president’s office was passed in June 1991.
The ballot papers carry the names of 7 candidates. They include Armenia’s incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan, the leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, who’s hot favorite to win the elections; Grant Bagratyan, the prime minister of Armenia in 1993-1996, who is now a deputy of the Armenian parliament and the leader of an non-influential opposition Svoboda (Freedom) party; the former U.S. citizen Raffi Ovanesyan, the head of the Naslediye (Heritage) opposition party.
Ex-dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan has also nominated his candidacy. He spent about 18 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and exiles.
Political analyst Arman Melikyan, Armenia’s former Charge d’Affaires in Kazakhstan, who later headed the Foreign Ministry and was adviser to the president of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, is ging to run for president again. He was a candidate at the previous elections held in 2008.
The remaining two candidates are political analyst Andreas Ghukasyan and Vardan Sedrakyan, an expert on epos, who is not a member of any political party. Both are newcomers in politics and are not known to broad public.
The presidential campaigns conducted by all the seven candidates passed normally without any innovations. A lion’s share of propaganda was on television where each candidate was given free and paid time on air. None of the candidates managed to organize debates considered to be the most effective form of pre-election struggle.
Naturally, the campaign was not void of reciprocal attacks, reproaches and ejections of slanderous materials which were sometimes absurd. For example, one of the candidates criticized his rival for being involved in a Masonic plot. However, campaigning was not the most fascianting stage of the election marathon. An attempt to assassinate candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan and the hunger strike of candidate Andreas Ghukasyan were certainly the highlights of the past election campaign.
In the meantime, the Armenian police have received 29 complaints linked to campaigning violations. One cirminal lawsuit has been launched. Police are considering the remaining 28 complaints.
More than 2.5 million Armenian voters will have to elect a new president for the next five-year term on Monday, February 18. Sociologists predict that 58%-62% of the voters will turn up at polling stations.