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By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s leading opposition parties supporting defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian were holding late Friday final talks on the formation of a broad-based alliance that will try to win control of the parliament in the May elections.

Representatives of Demirchian’s People’s Party (HZhK) and more than a dozen other groups were due to agree the list of candidates for 131 parliament seats. Vazgen Manukian, the leader of the National Democratic Union (AZhM), told RFE/RL that they will likely file for registration with the Central Election Commission on Saturday.

According to some press reports, the bloc will be named Artarutyun (Justice). Apart from Demirchian and Manukian, its electoral slate will also comprise other prominent opposition figures like Aram Sarkisian, Albert Bazeyan, Aram Karapetian and Shavarsh Kocharian.

“The opposition will act in a united front,” Sarkisian declared at yet another pro-Demirchian rally in Yerevan earlier in the day. But he stressed that President Robert Kocharian’s resignation remains the number one priority of the opposition.

In a joint statement read out to several thousand protesters, the opposition parties reaffirmed their refusal to recognize Kocharian’s reelection, again accusing him of “usurping power.” “The united opposition will continue its resolute struggle for the restoration of constitutional order and the formation of a legitimate government,” they said. “We view our participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections in this context.”

The statement warned that the Demirchian-led opposition will boycott the polls if it sees no “pre-requisites” for their freedom and fairness. In Bazeyan’s words, that means, among other things, sweeping changes in various-level electoral commissions currently controlled by Kocharian.

The opposition and international observers have blamed the commissions for widespread irregularities reported during the recent presidential election. But Kocharian and the Central Election Commission insist that the violations did not affect the outcome of the vote which ended in a landslide victory for the incumbent.

Besides the Demirchian-led alliance, there is only one opposition force that can threaten Kocharian’s hold on power: the National Unity party of Artashes Geghamian. Geghamian has said National Unity will not be seeking to form or join any electoral alliances.

(Photolur photo: Bazeyan, left, Demirchian and Manukian during Friday's opposition rally.)
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