Armenia. The run-up to the presidential election was
dramatic with assassination attempts on the opposition
candidate and former Soviet dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan. He
was shot dead near his home in Yerevan but avoided
Countryaah, Hayrikyan opted for Armenia to approach the EU and be
vigilant against the Russian Federation, and he accused "a
foreign security service", indirectly the Russian
Federation, of the assassination attempt. Later, another
presidential candidate was convicted of his refusal to stand
behind the attack.
The election was held in February and won as expected by
the incumbent President, Serzh Sarkisian, who pushed a hard
nationalist line in the conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan
over the Armenian-controlled area of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Sarkisian received just over 58% of the vote before
the US-born former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian with
just over 37%. Prominent opposition politicians, who were
considered more likely to challenge the president, refrained
from running for a protest, saying they felt the election
was not open and democratic.
The European Security Organization, the OSCE, believed
that the election was better than the 2008 election, but
felt that there was no real competition. A local observer
group noted hundreds of cases of irregularities.
The opposition claimed electoral fraud with the purchase
of votes and repeated voting and demanded that the election
be redone. Thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated,
but the Constitutional Court rejected all formal protests.
Hovannisian hunger strike without results.
After four years of negotiations with Brussels, Armenia
appeared to be moving towards an association and free trade
agreement with the EU. At the same time, the country was
keen on military cooperation with Moscow as a guarantee in
the conflict with Azerbaijan, and as Armenia approached the
EU, the country was subjected to pressure from Moscow.
In March, President Sarkisian met his Russian colleague
Vladimir Putin, who wanted Armenia in a customs union with
the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus. In the
Russian-led Union, no demands were made for changed laws,
but agreements with the EU require adaptation of Armenia's
laws and business rules. According to Brussels, Armenia
cannot be a member of the Russian-led customs union and have
agreements with the EU.
During the summer, anti-Russian protests occurred in the
capital Yerevan, aimed at raising gas prices, against
Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan and against the humiliation
of an Armenian brought to trial in Moscow. Public opinion
seemed to be swinging to the benefit of the EU.
But in September, President Sarkisian announced that
Armenia would join the Russian-led customs union. The EU
expressed great disappointment, and Sweden's Foreign
Minister said that Armenia was subjected to "brutal
pressure" and "economic warfare" from the Russian
Federation, which threatened with more expensive gas this
The political opposition in Armenia objected to the
president's decision, demanding that Parliament and the
people should speak. Outside the presidential palace,
protesters scanned: "No return to the Soviet Union" and
"Away with Russia".
Opposition leader Hovannisian accused President Sarkisian
of putting his personal political considerations before the
nation's best and demanding his departure. According to a
political analyst, a key factor in Sarkisian's decision was
that the Russian Federation promised to guarantee the
security of Nagorno-Karabakh.