By Hrach Melkumian
The first secretary of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK), Vladimir Darpinian, expressed on Monday his readiness to lend his support to another opposition leader despite his nomination Sunday as the HKK’s candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.
Darpinian’s candidacy was unanimously put forward by delegates of a pre-election Communist convention in Yerevan. But the 71-year-old leader, who held senior posts in Soviet Armenia’s leadership in the 1970s, made it clear that he stands ready to drop out of the race in support of a more popular opposition leader backed by most opposition parties.
“A sense of responsibility must lead us to overcome our internal differences and join efforts for the sake of our homeland,” Darpinian told RFE/RL in an interview, referring to the 16-party opposition coalition, of which the HKK is a major member.
The coalition was formed in August with the stated aim of agreeing on a single candidate capable of defeating President Robert Kocharian. However, at least two of its leaders, Artashes Geghamian and Stepan Demirchian, are expected to contest the elections in any case.
The Communist leader said he hopes that the opposition union will develop into an electoral alliance and that he already has his preferred presidential candidate. “Of course, I do have my opinion, but let us not give names because that could be misunderstood and taken painfully by the other side,” he said, adding that popularity must be the main criterion for choosing a single opposition contender.
Darpinian at the same time did not rule out the possibility that the opposition parties will join forces only in the event of a run-off vote with Kocharian. The president has indicated that he will be seeking to garner enough votes to avoid what would be a high-risk showdown with only one opposition contender. His loyal media increasingly make the point that Kocharian is popular enough to win an outright majority in the first round of voting.
The Armenian Communists have polled at least 10 percent of the vote in all nationwide elections held since 1995. Their endorsement would therefore be a serious boost to any opposition candidate. Analysts believe that the HKK would rather back Demirchian than Geghamian.