By Atom Markarian
The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) announced Friday that it will not officially endorse any of the nine presidential candidates, but indicated that it would welcome a victory by Stepan Demirchian because he represents “the least of evils.”
“We have no orientation towards supporting or not supporting any candidate,” the HHSh chairman, Ararat Zurabian, told reporters. “We are primarily concerned with the normal course of the elections. We will be happy if the elections are fair.”
Zurabian said that although none of the contenders advocates policies reflecting the HHSh agenda, the former ruling party would welcome any legitimate outcome of the February 19 vote, even if it is won by President Robert Kocharian. But he added that it is Demirchian who now enjoys “popular affection” and is the favorite to win the race.
“There is no candidate whom you could enthusiastically back,” said another HHSh leader, Aram Manukian. “But under these circumstances, we should elect the least of evils so that the country can have a legitimate president,” he said, referring to Demirchian.
The HHSh, which governed Armenia from 1990 through 1998, had for months hoped that its unofficial leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, will contest the elections and boost its extremely low popularity. However, Ter-Petrosian eventually decided against running for president despite persistent calls from his supporters. He gave no reasons for the move.
The HHSh, which has been confined to the sidelines of Armenian politics since Ter-Petrosian’s 1998 resignation, likewise decided to stay away from the race, apparently realizing that none of its leaders can make a strong showing. Its members hold the current regime responsible for their woes and would only welcome Kocharian’s defeat.
Still, the center-right party has repeatedly criticized the mainstream opposition for advocating “populist” ideas and supporting the Kocharian administration’s “hard line” on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.