By Emil Danielyan
Paruyr Hayrikian, a veteran Armenian politician, announced on Monday his withdrawal from the presidential election campaign, saying that he will endorse instead another opposition candidate.
Hayrikian, who had taken part in all three previous presidential elections, bowed out of the race a day before the deadline for the submission of documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for the official registration of candidates. His exit reduced to 14 the number of presidential nominees.
Hayrikian, who was a major contender in previous elections, said in a statement that his participation in the February 19 ballot would be “redundant and unsound,” effectively admitting that he is unlikely to make a strong showing this time around. He chided other opposition leaders for their failure to pick a single challenger against President Robert Kocharian, but said he and his National Self-Determination Union (AIM) party are ready to back one of them.
“We will definitely participate in the presidential elections. We will participate in an alliance,” the statement said. “We have had serious and businesslike meetings with Raffi Hovannisian and Artashes Geghamian and consulted with other [presidential] candidates,” it added, specifically criticizing the authorities for questioning Hovannisian’s eligibility to run for president.
Hovannisian and Geghamian are now among the most popular opposition candidates and, according to some opinion polls, can mount a serious challenge against Kocharian.
The candidates have to submit to the CEC, among other things, at least 35,000 voter signatures and a $10,000 deposit. Most of them have already done so. The CEC is to decide whether or not to register them by January 20.