By Armen Zakarian
Former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian indicated on Wednesday that his opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party will support former President Levon Ter-Petrosian if it concludes that he is capable of winning the February 19 presidential elections.
Sarkisian, who is one of President Robert Kocharian’s main rivals, said Hanrapetutyun is ready to endorse any “electable” opposition candidate. “Whether that candidate is Levon Ter-Petrosian or anybody else, we will support him,” he said.
“I don’t rule out anything,” he said. “But I also don’t know whether or not Ter-Petrosian will put forward his candidacy. It’s up to him to decide.”
Political observers believe that of all 16 mainstream opposition parties that form a loose pre-election coalition Hanrapetutyun is the most sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian. Sarkisian confirmed reports that his party maintains regular contacts with the ex-president’s close associates and is willing to act as a link between them and its opposition allies, notably the People’s Party (HZhK) led by Stepan Demirchian.
Demirchian emerged as the most likely joint opposition candidate during a congress of the HZhK earlier this month. Hanrapetutyun has yet to decide whether to endorse Demirchian’s or another opposition leader’s presidential bid or nominate its own candidate. Sarkisian said the party, which is due to convene its congress on December 3, needs between 20 and 25 days to determine the “electable” opposition candidate.
The official deadline for the nomination of presidential candidates is December 6.
Hanrapetutyun comprises many friends and comrades-in-arms of Sarkisian’s powerful brother Vazgen who was assassinated in the October 1999 attack on the parliament. Many of them maintain ties with Ter-Petrosian’s entourage.
The ex-president’s allies have so far sent conflicting signals about Ter-Petrosian’s political plans. Some of them say that he has already decided to participated in the presidential elections, while others caution that no decision has been taken yet. They had told RFE/RL earlier this year that Ter-Petrosian will not contest the polls without building a broad-based opposition coalition.