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By Irina Hovannisian
A leader of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) blamed on Monday Russia for his party’s failure to form an electoral alliance with other Western-oriented opposition groups.

The four parties seemed last month close to joining forces for the upcoming parliamentary elections only to fail to work out all modalities of their would-be bloc. Apart from the HHSh, those included the radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party of Aram Sarkisian, Vazgen Manukian’s National Democratic Union (AZhM), and Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. The opposition People’s Party of Stepan Demirchian, President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger in the last presidential ballot, was also initially involved in their negotiations.

Aram Manukian, deputy chairman of the HHSh, alleged that the talks failed because some of these parties maintain secret ties with the Kocharian government and the Kremlin. “Not only the government but also Russia had a serious impact on the Armenian opposition’s failure to unite,” he said. “I don’t want to go into details because we still have common election-related things to do with those forces.”

Other opposition leaders have similarly refrained from blaming each other in public. Still, some of them privately point the figure at Hovannisian, saying that his uncompromising desire to top the list of the would-be bloc’s list of candidates precluded an agreement. Hovannisian dismissed such claims on March 9, saying that the pre-election deal fell through because of the presidential ambitions of some of his partners.

Only two of the parties in question, the HHSh and Hanrapetutyun, have a distinctly pro-Western agenda, favoring Armenia’s eventual withdrawal from a Russian-led military pact and membership in NATO.

If established, the alliance would have effectively a sealed a landmark reconciliation between the AZhM’s Manukian and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the HHSh’s unofficial leader. The two erstwhile comrades-in-arms led Armenia to independence before falling out in the early 1990s. Manukian and his party, which was set up as an HHSh splinter group, were in staunch opposition to the HHSh government and nearly succeeded in unseating Ter-Petrosian in a reputedly fraudulent 1996 presidential election.

Vazgen Manukian is understood to have been ready, in principle, to team up with his nemesis’s party despite its lingering lack of popularity.

(Photolur photo: Aram Manukian.)
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