By Karine Kalantarian
Raffi Hovannisian, Armenia’s U.S.-born former foreign minister, officially joined on Wednesday the unfolding presidential race, pledging to ensure “the triumph of law” in the event of his victory in the February 19 elections.
“I intend to travel my lane in the road to Armenia's presidency pursuant to the Constitution, placing full faith in the rule of right and in the dignified support of the Armenian people,” he declared in a solemnly worded statement which he read out to reporters.
Hovannisian, who is seen as a potentially strong contender, said that he is primarily motivated by a desire to improve the “complex socioeconomic and ethical state of the country” which has undermined public confidence in “a handful of [its] successive rulers.”
Hovannisian, promising to hold a separate news conference soon, refused to answer journalists’ questions. Most of them revolve around his eligibility to contest the polls. Under Armenian law, only those Armenian citizens who have permanently lived in the country for the past ten years can be registered as presidential candidates. Hovannisian, who has been based in Yerevan since 1990, was granted Armenian citizenship only last year.
Some members of the Central Election Commission, dominated by President Robert Kocharian’s supporters, say privately that there are insufficient legal grounds for Hovannisian’s registration. They argue that the ex-minister should have resided in the country for at least ten years after becoming an Armenian national.
But Hovannisian, who served as independent Armenia’s first foreign minister while being a U.S. national, counters that his citizenship applications were illegally turned down by the current and former authorities.