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By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s largest opposition alliance beset by internal wrangling formally ceased to exist on Friday following its members’ failure to field a single list of candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

“The Artarutyun alliance is announcing the termination of its activities,” said Grigor Harutiunian, secretary of the bloc’s parliamentary faction.

Artarutyun, which finished second in the disputed 2003 elections, has largely existed on paper over the past year amid growing differences among the nine opposition parties aligned in it. The biggest of them, the People’s Party (HZhK) of Stepan Demirchian, precipitated the bloc’s formal dissolution last month by deciding to contest the May 12 elections single-handedly.

Another major Artarutyun force, the Hanrapetutyun party of Aram Sarkisian, has pushed for the formation of a new election alliance that would comprise a smaller number of parties with mainly pro-Western agendas. Sarkisian has failed to reach agreement with the HZhK and any other opposition groups.

Harutiunian, who is a senior member of the HZhK, insisted that Demirchian offered his partners to preserve Artarutyun but that they rejected the idea. “That was our desire which was not accepted by our partners,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone. People simply see things in a different way.”

Hanrapetutyun and other opposition groups reportedly rejected Demirchian’s demand that at least half of the places on the would-be bloc’s electoral slate be reserved for the HZhK.

Artarutyun was formed in the wake of the February-March 2003 presidential election in which Demirchian was the incumbent President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger. The HZhK and its opposition allies never recognized the legitimacy of Kocharian’s disputed reelection, saying that Demirchian was the rightful winner of the vote.

Artarutyun likewise rejected the official results of the May 2003 parliamentary elections which gave it 14 percent of the vote and 23 seats in the 131-member National Assembly. Alleging serious fraud, Artarutyun deputies boycotted the assembly during much of its four-year existence.

Harutiunian admitted that the bloc has failed to achieve its main objectives, including what opposition leaders call “restoration of constitutional order.” “We began the struggle in 2003 and that struggle failed to attain its goals,” he said. “But we believe it must be continued.”
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