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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian announced on Monday that his People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) will contest next May’s parliamentary elections despite calls for their boycott over alleged fraud in last week’s presidential ballot. Demirchian said the HZhK is now considering forming an electoral alliance with other opposition groups that have backed his presidential bid.

President Robert Kocharian, meanwhile, discussed the approaching legislative polls with his own loyalists.

“The HZhK will participate in the parliamentary elections,” Demirchian told RFE/RL. “You will soon find out what form that participation will take.”

Demirchian said although the HZhK and 14 other opposition parties supporting him are now primarily concerned with invalidating the presidential elections, they do hold talks on the May 25 elections.

The spokesman for one of those parties, Hanrapetutyun, confirmed the information. “The political forces supporting Stepan Demirchian will decide by March 16 whether to contest the elections separately or in a single list,” Suren Sureniants told RFE/RL, referring to the legal deadline for the nomination of political parties or blocs and individual candidates. The nomination process officially gets underway on Tuesday.

The idea of forming a broad-based opposition alliance was backed Monday by Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician whose National Democratic Union (AZhM) used, unsuccessfully, its representation in various-level election commissions to facilitate Demirchian’s victory. But he said the AZhM’s governing board has not yet taken a final decision on the issue.

Another top Demirchian ally, former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, said through a spokesman that his recently formed Zharangutyun (Heritage) party will also run in the elections. The spokesman, Ashot Aghababian, confirmed that Zharangutyun is also involved in the multi-party consultations.

Some opposition leaders, including Hanrapetutyun’s Aram Sarkisian, said in the immediate aftermath of the March 5 presidential run-off that the Demirchian camp should consider boycotting the parliamentary elections in protest against alleged vote rigging.

Preparations for the May elections were also discussed by Kocharian and major parties supporting him. No details of the meeting, including the list of participants, were reported by the presidential office though.

Speaking to RFE/RL earlier in the day, senior members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir parties did not rule out the possibility of setting up a major pro-presidential bloc.

Tigran Torosian, a leader of the largest pro-Kocharian group, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said last week that the HHK will not form electoral alliances. But he on Monday sounded less categorical.
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