By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Raffi Hovannisian, Armenia’s U.S.-born former foreign minister, has decided to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections with his own electoral bloc, steering clear of a broad-based opposition alliance led by Stepan Demirchian, the defeated presidential candidate.
The bloc, which carries Hovannisian’s full name, mainly comprises members of his recently formed political organization called Zharangutyun (Heritage). More importantly, the popular politician himself avoided joining its list of candidates, apparently fearing that he will again fail to meet eligibility criteria set by Armenian law.
According to them, only those individuals who have been Armenian nationals and “permanently” lived in Armenia for the previous five years can run for parliament. The threshold for presidential candidates is ten years.
Hovannisian, who moved to Yerevan from California in 1990, was granted Armenian citizenship by President Robert Kocharian only in 2001. The Central Election Commission refused to register Hovannisian as a presidential candidate last January on those grounds. The ex-minister has unsuccessfully challenged the decision in courts, saying that his repeated citizenship applications had been for years “illegally” ignored by the authorities.