By Armen Zakarian
Sixteen Armenian opposition parties forming a loose anti-government coalition held on Tuesday more discussions on their common platform and moved to draw up a plan of joint actions in the run-up to the February presidential election.
Opposition leaders attending the three-hour meeting made no official statements about its details, saying that they agreed to keep their talks confidential. “The coalition is achieving its objective on time,” said Hrant Khachatrian, leader of the small Union for Constitutional Rights who chaired the gathering.
“Many issues were discussed and serious decisions were taken,” another prominent oppositionist, Arshak Sadoyan, noted ambiguously.
But other informed sources told RFE/RL that the meeting focused on a 18-point program that outlines opposition approaches to key issues facing Armenia. They said the program mainly reflects views of left-wing parties dominating the coalition and could serve as a basis for the electoral manifesto of the opposition’s possible joint presidential candidate.
The opposition parties, which hope to thwart President Robert Kocharian’s reelection, seem to have again avoided any discussion on who should be their single candidate, anxious not to rekindle their differences on the issue. They instead instructed their coordinating body to work out a plan of specific joint actions ahead of the February vote.
They also named Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president), chairman of the parliament committee on science and education, to coordinate the work of their newly formed united faction in the parliament. The unofficial faction unites 28 deputies affiliated with opposition parties represented in the 131-member National Assembly.
Opposition leaders admit that they will not necessarily agree on the joint presidential candidate, but will definitely do so in the event of a run-off vote with Kocharian. One of the opposition heavyweights, the National Unity party, is expected to endorse the presidential bid of its ambitious leader, Artashes Geghamian, at a congress on Saturday.
Another major player, the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), will hold a similar congress on November 2. Its leader, Stepan Demirchian, is one of the most popular opposition figures.