By Emil Danielyan
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has asked law-enforcement authorities to intervene in the what he sees as an illegal closure of the Yerevan headquarters of his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, it emerged on Monday.
The party, which is expected to be a major opposition contender in next year’s Armenian parliamentary election, was locked out of the premises, which belong to a state-run theater and have been leased by Hovannisian has for more than a decade, on March 4. Workers who put new locks on their external doors cited orders from the theater management which in turn pointed to Zharangutyun failure to sign a new lease agreement with the Armenian government.
The Zharangutyun leadership denounced the move as politically motivated. In a weekend letter to Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and the national police chief Hayk Harutiunian made public by Zharangutyun, Hovannisian said it amounted to a “de facto suspension” of his party’s activities. “The office contains the party’s safe, official seal, the legal documents necessary for its activities as well as personal and family objects,” he wrote, urging the law-enforcement agencies to “identify and hold accountable guilty individuals.”
The U.S.-born opposition leader also said that he has raised the matter with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and that the latter promised to find a “quick solution to the illegality related to the closure of the office.”
Hovannisian, who served as Armenia’s first foreign minister in 1992, stepped up his political activities last year, joining other top opposition leaders in challenging the official results of the November 27 constitutional referendum. Addressing an opposition rally in Yerevan, Hovannisian challenged President Robert Kocharian to officially state whether he has rigged elections or ordered political killings. A Kocharian spokesman rejected the attacks as “nonsense.”