By Karine Kalantarian
Several major Armenian opposition parties will decide by the end of next week whether to form a new alliance for contesting the May parliamentary elections, one of their leaders said on Friday.
Former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian confirmed that his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party is involved in the ongoing opposition discussions. He refused to give details of the “difficult” talks, saying only that they will end within a week.
“There have been various difficulties, including personal, ideological, organizational and material ones,” Hovannisian said without elaborating.
The talks are understood to also involve Stepan Demirchian’s People’s Party (HZhK), Vazgen Manukian’s National Democratic Union (AZhM) and the radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party of Aram Sarkisian. Demirchian has said that the HZhK, which is the largest of these parties, is unlikely team up with other opposition forces for the upcoming elections. Nonetheless, Sarkisian insisted earlier this week that the formation of a broad-based election bloc is still a real possibility.
Agreement is reportedly hampered by differences over who should head and compose the list of election candidates to be filed by the would-be bloc. Newspaper reports have said Demirchian is demanding that at least half of its “electable” slots be given to its party. Manukian is said to have rejected this.
“Naturally, everyone’s entourage wants their leader to become the top leader. But we need to overcome that psychological problem,” Hovannisian told reporters. “I am not a careerist and can yield for the sake of my principles,” he said.
The U.S.-born politician also warned that if the opposition talks fail Zharangutyun will consider not taking part in the elections. “I am trying to be a realist,” he said. “And realism suggests that … going it alone is not a good idea in Amenia.”
Hovannisian, who is believed to be one of the most popular opposition leaders, was barred by the Armenian authorities from contesting the last presidential and parliamentary elections on the grounds that he has not been an Armenian citizen long enough to run for office. He denounced the ban as illegal and politically motivated.
Hovannisian stepped up his attacks on the government in late 2005, effectively implicating President Robert Kocharian in high-profile killings committed in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In March 2006 his party was controversially forced out of its state-owned offices in Yerevan. The Zharangutyun leadership is still challenging the eviction in courts.