By Ruzanna Stepanian
Several major Armenian opposition parties reported no progress late Tuesday in their last-minute negotiations over the possible formation of a new electoral alliance.
They appeared to have finally failed to bring Stepan Demirchian, President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger in the last presidential election, into the fold.
Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) was not participating in the talks involving the Hanrapetutyun, Zharangutyun and National Democratic Union (AZhM) parties. The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement was also involved in them.
There were no indications that the four mostly pro-Western parties can reach agreement even among themselves. “We have no ideological disagreements. There are only differences in our tactical approaches,” a Hanrapetutyun leader, Suren Sureniants, told RFE/RL.
“The talks can not continue endlessly, and late in the evening the Hanrapetutyun party will decide on the form of its participation in the elections,” he said.
Hanrapetutyun’s outspoken chairman, former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, has been particularly keen to see a broad-based opposition bloc take on Kocharian’s political allies in the May 12 elections. Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian has also strongly advocated the idea, warning that the opposition will face defeat unless it closes the ranks. It was not immediately clear what exactly stood in the way of their consolidation.
Meanwhile, Demirchian’s party blamed its erstwhile opposition allies for the lack of opposition unity. “To say that the HZhK is deliberately going it alone is inadmissible,” an HZhK lawmaker, Grigor Harutiunian, said in parliament earlier in the day. He said they rejected Demirchian’s offer to preserve the HZhK-led Artarutyun alliance.
Two other leading opposition parties, Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir and Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity, have also decided to contest the elections on their own. Most local observers say this will make it easier for Armenia’s leadership to retain its control of the National Assembly.
(RFE/RL photo: Sarkisian pictured during an opposition rally.)