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By Astghik Bedevian
A recently formed political party widely linked with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian signaled on Wednesday its intention not to contest next year’s parliamentary elections, in a surprise move that will spark speculation about far-reaching deals cut within Armenia’s leadership.

The governing board of Association for Armenia party is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the issue. One of its top leaders, parliament deputy Vahram Baghdasarian, told RFE/RL that he will push for the party’s pullout from the unfolding parliamentary race.

The party, which claims to have about 40,000 members, said as recently as last summer that it intends to make a strong showing in the elections. Levon Khachatrian, another Association for Armenia leader close to Hovsepian, claimed that it can win them and form the next government.

“We have no goal to win a majority [in parliament] and things like that,” countered Baghdasarian. He made the point that the only “realistic” way of winning elections in Armenia is massive vote buying and that he is categorically against resorting to that.

“Everyone sees what kind of mechanisms exist for winning votes,” said Baghdasarian. “We have to decide whether we will use those mechanisms. In a country having social problems, it is obvious how votes are won.”

“We have spoiled our people, our voters. I don’t deny that,” he added.

The remarks followed a weekend local election in Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district that were easily won by Hovsepian’s brother Ruben. The victory is widely seen as the result of a deal cut between the influential prosecutor and the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that unexpectedly decided not to field a candidate for the post of Ajapnyak mayor.

Baghdasarian denied that the Association for Armenia’s likely refusal to participate in the parliamentary elections is part of a deal cut with the HHK’s unofficial leader, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, or President Robert Kocharian. He made it clear that his party will have candidates in some of the country’s 41-single mandate constituencies. The remaining 90 seats in the Armenian parliament will be distributed on the party list basis.

Although Hovsepian has repeatedly denied any connection with the Association for Armenia, he is widely believed to have been behind its launch earlier this year. The development highlighted his growing political ambitions, with some commentators suggesting that he is one of Kocharian’s potential successors.

(Photolur photo: Aghvan Hovsepian.)
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