150,000 Sign Hovannesian’s ‘Contract with Voters’

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)-Armenian Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovanessian’s campaign office reported Monday that 150,000 eligible voter had already signed the candidate’s "Contract with the Voter," which was issued last month as part of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member’s presidential campaign.
Hovanessian’s campaign manager Armen Rustamian said that his office anticipated a surge in that number, as there were more signatures coming in daily.
He also announced that more than 5,000 volunteers and campaign officials would be on hand to man the ARF’s allotted number of seats on the central, regional and local electoral commissions.
Hovannesian said on Monday that he still hopes to win the backing of two prominent opposition leaders for the February 19 election.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Hovannesian also stood by his view that none of the nine presidential hopefuls, including Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, can garner sufficient votes to win the election, which is already in its first round.
We are making every effort to talk and negotiate with opposition leaders, he said when asked about the possibility of the endorsement of his candidacy by opposition leaders Raffi Hovannisian and Vazgen Manukian.
"I think real chances of victory must outweigh any kind of ambition or pressure. If that is the case, I think we definitely have a chance to reach such an agreement," added the deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament.
Manukian, who is also running for president but is not regarded as a major contender, told RFE/RL that he stands ready to form a "united front" with the ARF and Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party. The veteran politician has so far avoided holding campaign rallies, and his commen’s may be an indication that he is considering dropping out of the race.
The more popular Zharangutyun leader has been courted by the ARF since his party’s relatively strong performance in the May 2007 parliamentary elections. But he has made it clear that he is unlikely to endorse any candidate before the fist round. Also, Raffi Hovannisian has ceded hundreds of seats in Armenian election commissions, reserved for Zharangutyun, to political allies of another leading contender, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
But Hovannesian did not approve of the move. "Let Zharangutyun think about its political image and who it is giving those seats to and the fact that it lacks people to fill up those 830 [commission] vacancies," he said.
Hovannesian also expressed confidence that the presidential race will require a run-off vote. "I think that a second round is becoming more and more likely," he said.

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