By Karine Kalantarian
A court in Yerevan refused on Friday to reinstate Aram Karapetian, an opposition leader and former presidential contender, as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The district court in the city’s southern Erebuni district turned down Karapetian’s lawsuit against the local election commission which ruled on April 26 that he has not lived in Armenia for the past five years and is therefore not eligible to contest the elections.
Strangely enough, Karapetian was allowed to run in the recent presidential election after meeting its more stringent, ten-year residency criterion. His eligibility was officially certified by the immigration directorate of the Armenian Police.
But in a letter to the Erebuni election commission late last month, Deputy Police Chief Ararat Mahtesian said further inquiries by the Armenian authorities revealed that Karapetian was based in Moscow from 1997 up until last year when he began his high-profile political activities. According to the commission chairman, Ara Matinian, the letter came in response to complaints filed by two pro-government candidates running for the parliament in the same single-mandate constituency.
Karapetian argued that he pursued doctoral studies in the Russian capital from 1996-199 and regularly traveled to Armenia during the period in question. Three of his Yerevan neighbors told the court that they have often seen him at home for the past several years.
However, the court did not find the arguments convincing. Under Armenian law, its ruling can not be appealed at a higher court. It means that Karapetian will also be disqualified as a candidate for a parliament seat distributed under the system of proportional representation. His name is high in the list of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance led by Stepan Demirchian.
Karapetian, who has emerged as one of the most popular opposition leaders in less than a year, is one of about a dozen opposition candidates kicked out of the race. Artarutyun, with which most of them are affiliated, has accused President Robert Kocharian and his loyal electoral bodies of illegally obstructing an opposition victory in the elections.