By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s largest opposition alliance built around Stepan Demirchian will contest next month’s parliamentary elections as part of its efforts to force the recently reelected President Robert Kocharian into resignation, one of its leaders said on Saturday.
According to Albert Bazeyan, the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc looks to win a majority in the next National Assembly in order to step up its pressure on Kocharian. He again alleged that the March 5 presidential election was falsified by the authorities.
Demirchian has appealed the official election results, which showed Kocharian winning 67.5 percent of the vote, at the Constitutional Court. The court’s ruling, expected next week, is unlikely to be in the opposition leader’s favor, however. Lawyers for the Kocharian-controlled Central Election Commission attending court hearings this week dismissed Demirchian representatives’ arguments for declaring the vote invalid.
Bazeyan said that Artarutyun will continue to fight for the annulment of the official results whatever the outcome of the court action. “The citizens of Armenia have the right to determine other ways of forming a legitimate government,” he told journalists. “We believe that we should continue the struggle together with the people.”
Kocharian has admitted that there were “numerous” vote irregularities but insists that those did not affect the election outcome. He accused the opposition of “irresponsible behavior” during his inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
A senior Kocharian ally, meanwhile, argued on Saturday that the Demirchian-led opposition is sticking to its tough anti-Kocharian rhetoric in a bid to win more parliament seats. “This is what explains the opposition’s activities,” Gagik Minasian of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) told RFE/RL.
Minasian, who also heads the economic committee of the outgoing Armenian parliament, predicted that the opposition will be ready for a “dialogue” with the authorities after the elections. Any overtures to Kocharian at this point could play badly with the opposition electorate, he said.
Minasian also played down reported disagreements between the HHK, which is led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, and other pro-presidential parties that are contesting the May 25 elections single-handedly. He said they have already reached agreements to nominate only one candidate in many of the 56 single-seat constituencies.
The HHK is seen as the most influential of the pro-Kocharian forces. Its electoral chances were boosted recently by the inclusion of powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian on its list of candidates running for the parliament under the system of proportional representation.