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By Ruzanna Stepanian
A small opposition alliance pursuing the single goal of impeaching President Robert Kocharian was officially registered to contest the May 12 parliamentary elections on Thursday.

The bloc bearing the English-language name Impeachment formally consists of two small parties supporting former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. But the driving force behind it is the Aylentrank (Alternative) movement that was launched late last year by a group of prominent politicians and intellectuals in opposition to Kocharian.

Some of them, notably former parliament speaker Babken Ararktsian, used to hold senior positions in the Ter-Petrosian administration. Others are much younger Western-oriented figures like Nikol Pashinian, editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Armenia’s best-selling daily. Pashinian told RFE/RL that Impeachment’s list of candidates will be submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) by Saturday.

As well as campaigning for regime change, Aylentrank claims to offer an ideological alternative to Armenia’s current leadership, which it accuses of rolling back political reforms and endangering the country’s sovereignty. The movement embarked on a campaign of rallies on February 20 in a bid to win over the hearts and minds of Armenians.

However, its first rally was attended by up to 1,000 people, highlighting Ter-Petrosian allies’ persisting lack of popularity. The next Aylentrank gathering is scheduled for Friday.

Aylentrank leaders hoped that Impeachment would unite a wide range of big and small opposition parties refusing to recognize Kocharian’s legitimacy. But none of the opposition heavyweights has shown interest in the initiative. Even some Ter-Petrosian allies are skeptical about it.

Meanwhile, the Kocharian-controlled CEC voiced no objections to the bloc’s name as it promptly registered Impeachment in the presence of journalists. Still, the CEC chairman, Garegin Azarian, had trouble uttering the word “impeachment” during the public ceremony, cutting short his customary congratulation of a newly registered election contender. “We congratulate … ,” Azarian paused, grinning. “I had better not say that. Let’s move on,” he added.

(Photolur photo: Aylentrank supporters march in Yerevan.)
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