By Ruzanna Stepanian
Last-ditch attempts by several Armenian opposition parties to form an election alliance have ended in failure, it was confirmed on Wednesday.
The parties led by former Prime Ministers Aram Sarkisian and Vazgen Manukian and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian failed to iron out their differences in late-night negotiations on Tuesday. All there men were tight-lipped about reasons for the fiasco, which is another good news for the Armenian government.
Sarkisian seemed particularly disappointed with the collapse of the talks, saying that his radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party will have to run for parliament on its own. He confirmed that Hanrapetutyun will not team up even with the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, another opposition party involved in the talks.
“I wouldn’t like to use details of those negotiation for attacking anyone,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL. “I think those details won’t be of any use.”
But the outspoken oppositionist did say that he suspects some of his potential allies of playing into the government’s hands. “Unfortunately, in Armenia and dictatorial countries in general there are too many such parties,” he said.
When asked to name them, Sarkisian said, “The public will see that during the election campaign. I think the public already has suspicions about one or another party. I don’t have to specify them.”
Manukian also refused to elaborate on the opposition discussions. “I don’t want to play the blame game,” he told RFE/RL. “That’s just the way it is. We failed for some reason, and I don’t want to make any comments.”
Manukian also said later in the day that his National Democratic Union (AZhM), one of Armenia’s oldest opposition parties, has decided to boycott the May 12 elections. The veteran politician has advocated such a boycott in the past, arguing that the country’s culture of electoral fraud leaves little room for the opposition.
The nominal chairman of Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party, Vartan Khachatrian, may have had Manukian in mind when he complained that some unspecified participants of the talks were skeptical about the chances of an opposition bloc making a strong showing in the May 12 elections. “Some organizations believed that it is impossible to radically change this situation with this process and this make-up,” he said, refusing to name anyone. “There were also organizations that set conditions pertaining to the name of the alliance and their participation in that alliance.”
“We did everything in our power to reach agreement and always remained open to mutual concessions,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL. He said Hovannisian was even ready not to occupy any of the five top spots in the would-be bloc’s list of candidates.
Khachatrian added that Zharangutyun will decide later on Wednesday whether or not it will contest the elections. Hovannisian suggested last week that doing that single-handedly would make no sense.