By Irina Hovannisian
Former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian on Friday denied any responsibility for the failure by several Armenian opposition parties to form an electoral alliance, insisting that he never sought to become its top leader.
His Zharangutyun (Heritage) party looked set last month to team up with three other opposition groups for the May 12 parliamentary elections. Those included the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, the National Democratic Union (AZhM), and the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh).
Talks between their eventually broke down for reasons that are still not fully clear. Some of their participants privately blame Hovannisian for the fiasco, saying that his uncompromising desire to top the list of the would-be bloc’s list of candidates precluded an agreement.
Hovannisian rejected the claims, saying that the pre-election deal, which would have boosted opposition chances in the elections, fell through because of the presidential ambitions of some of his partners. “One or two of my partners have announced their presidential aspirations, which I think is quite telling,” said the former U.S. citizen.
One of them, AZhM leader Vazgen Manukian, confirmed this week plans to participate in next year’s Armenian presidential election despite his party’s decision to boycott the May 12 vote. Manukian told RFE/RL that during the talks he suggested that the would-be bloc have a collective leadership and decide who should top its slate by a draw.
While admitting that he rejected the idea, Hovannisian claimed that he was ready to cede the five top places on the opposition list to the other parties. “We had no problem with the list or presidential candidacies,” he said. “The sequence [of parliamentary candidates] was never important to us.”
The opposition talks were initiated by Hanrapetutyun’s outspoken leader, Aram Sarkisian. They initially also involved the People’s Party of Stepan Demirchian, President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger in the last presidential election. The four parties reportedly rejected Demirchian’s implicit demands to endorse his 2008 presidential bid.