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By Ruzanna Khachatrian

One of the leaders of the newly formed 16-party opposition grouping indicated on Wednesday that it may field several candidates for the first round of presidential elections scheduled for February.

Albert Bazeyan of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) made the comment as leaders of the diverse coalition made their case for a joint effort to defeat President Robert Kocharian. Speaking at a joint news conference, they again left no indication as to who might be chosen as a single opposition candidate.

Bazeyan, apparently highlighting the difficulty of the task, said: “It is our internal business to decide how many candidates we will have in the first round. This is a matter of tactics.”

Bazeyan did not elaborate on that, reiterating instead traditional opposition calls for Kocharian’s removal from power. They were echoed by other opposition leaders.

The People’s Party chairman, Stepan Demirchian, dismissed arguments that the opposition parties are too different to form a united front against the incumbent president and his allies. “Ideological differences can not be an obstacle to our cooperation because we have the same approaches to a number of issues,” he said.

But another prominent oppositionist, Vazgen Manukian, admitted that “we will not follow the same course no matter how much we unite.” Manukian already expressed skepticism about the new alliance’s ability to agree on a single presidential candidate.

A joint declaration, signed by the 16 parties last week and officially presented on Wednesday, says that "This grouping is meant to transform into an electoral alliance and participate in the presidential elections with a joint candidate and platform." It also pledges "resolute" efforts to prevent vote rigging by the authorities.

The opposition leaders also ruled out the possibility of throwing their weight behind former president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s possible reelection attempt. Shavarsh Kocharian, the leader of the small National Democratic Party, spoke for many when he said: “Levon Ter-Petrosian is the architect of this regime, while Robert Kocharian is it user. I don’t think that replacing the user with the architect would benefit the country.”
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