Experts in Armenia say that the upcoming presidential election differs from the previous five elections as February 18 is not like any of the previous elections.
After studying the upcoming and previous elections we have singled out seven characteristics, showing the main differences between the presidential elections.
1. The opposition named its candidate in the 2008 election, and no one doubted his political affiliation. [Armenia's first President] Levon Ter-Petrosyan had returned to the political arena to destroy the kleptocratic pyramid led by people he had brought to Armenia. Today, we do not know which of the seven candidates represents the opposition and the pro-government forces.
2. In 2008, all regional TV companies, with the exception of Gyumri-based Gala TV, refused to air presidential campaign commercials saying they are not profitable.
3. Today, the authorities do not see real contenders, hence the need to intimidate the rival's teammates. In 2008, we had the opposite picture: stones were thrown at Ter-Petrosyan's supporters during a campaign meeting in Artashat and Ter-Petrosyan's election office in Kapan was closed down by the Chief of Police. Cases of election bribery are expected to considerably reduce in February's ballot.
4. None of Serzh Sargsyan's contenders is seeking support from Russia or the West.
5. None of the candidates is viewed as a serious challenger to the pro-government candidate, with the latter's supporters gathering outside his election headquarters and calling for the banishment of the ‘dangerous' man from Armenia.
6. For the first time the authorities are not forced to pledge to conduct free, fair and transparent elections while in 2008 Serzh Sargsyan entered into the presidential race with the pledge and gave the pledge in all his campaign rallies.
7. None of Serzh Sargsyan's challengers is capable of mobilizing the supporters of his rivals, as well as representatives of the legislative power. Finally, the businessmen enjoying the favor of the authorities will not turn to the authorities and express their anxiety that the strong opposition movement could threaten the country's economic life.
Director of Noravank scientific-educational foundation says after coming to power Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has been demonstrating a more realistic policy which is sharply perceived by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
"The 21st Century Centre, an Ankara-based think tank, believes that the process will lead to Georgia's entering into alliance with Armenia and Russian," said Gagik Harutyunyan.
The expert thinks that the improvement of relations between Georgia, Russia and Armenia will create serious obstacles for Azerbaijan and Turkey in implementing their plans in the region.
"If the Georgian-Abkhazian railway opens, it will strategically change the situation in the region. In this case we are dealing with an adequate person [Ivanishvili] who has a serious approach to the issue," he said.
While Gagik Harutyunyan stresses that Bidzina Ivanishvili longs to better Armenian-Georgian relations, he does not expect major changes for Georgian Armenians during his tenure of office.
At the same time, Mr Harutyunyan says Armenian-Georgian relations will be identified after the presidential election in Georgia.