More Than 68,000 Cast Ballots to Choose ARF Presidential Candidate

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Some 68,183 people participated in an early election poll conducted Saturday and Sunday by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia. The poll gave the public an opportunity to vote between the ARF’s two potential presidential candidates, Vahan Hovannesian and Armen Rustamian.
The ARF on Saturday opened polling stations in Yerevan and the rest of the country urging Armenia’s to participate in the decision-making process and help the party choose its candidate.
On November 24, some 12,322 people voted in makeshift tents and mobile ballot boxes in Yerevan and 16,183 people in the regions; and 17,642 people voted in Yerevan and 22,027 people in regions on November 25.
The vote–the first of its kind ever organized in Armenia–concluded Monday with results expected to be announced Tuesday morning.
The purpose of the poll, entitled "Participate in our vote, let’s elect an ARF candidate," was to gauge public opinion on the upcoming presidential elections and the ARF’s participation with its own party candidate.
ARF Bureau chairman Hrant Markarian confirmed that congress delegates will not be bound by the outcome of this weekend’s polling in choosing the party’s candidate. But he said they will definitely "take into account" the vote results.
In speaking with RFE/RL Markarian sounded upbeat about the upcoming election’s freedom and fairness.
"Serzh will not be elected, and there will be no fraud," Markarian told RFE/RL. He said he is confident that his party, which is represented in Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s cabinet by three ministers, will emerge victorious from the contest.
Markarian predicted that the ARF candidate, who will be nominated later this week, will at least reach the second round of voting which he said will be necessary for determining Armenia’s next president.
The ARF’s Armenia organization is scheduled to hold a Congress on Nov. 30 to determine its candidate for the presidential race.
Markarian faulted the Armenian media for increasingly portraying the presidential race as a two-horse race between Sarkisian and former Prsident Levon Ter-Petrosian.

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