By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian opposition parties forming a loose alliance sounded on Monday cool towards the idea of rallying around former President Levon Ter-Petrosian ahead of the February 19 presidential elections. Most of their leaders claimed to have held no negotiations with Ter-Petrosian’s representatives over the possibility of endorsing his presidential bid.
“My impression is that Levon Ter-Petrosian is not acceptable to the majority [of alliance members],” said Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union (AZhM).
Sources close to the ex-president told RFE/RL last week that his close associates have approached some members of the 16-party opposition coalition to see whether they will support his political comeback. The sources said Ter-Petrosian has made it clear that he will not challenge President Robert Kocharian’s reelection plans without a broad-based opposition endorsement.
However, opposition leaders contacted by RFE/RL denied holding any talks with the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and its allies. “I can officially state that there have been no such negotiations with the AZhM,” Manukian said. He added that he is not aware of any contacts between the HHSh and other members of the so-called “Union of 16.”
A senior member of the opposition People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), Grigor Harutiunian, likewise denied any knowledge of confidential negotiations with close Ter-Petrosian associates. Only the Union of Constitutional Rights (SIM), a small nationalist party, admitted having “unofficial contacts” with the country’s former leadership.
Of all 16 opposition parties, former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian’s Hanrapetutyun is seen as the most sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian and the HHSh. Its leaders have confirmed reports about their confidential contacts with the latter.
Most alliance parties were in opposition to the Ter-Petrosian-led former regime and still deeply distrust him. Manukian highlighted this attitude when he indicated that the ex-president’s participation in the elections would benefit Kocharian.