By Hovannes Shoghikian
A second Armenian opposition party announced on Thursday its decision to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying that they will not be free and fair.
The leader of the small Liberal Progressive Party (AAK), Hovannes Hovannisian, said it will instead concentrate on organizing anti-government demonstrations in the wake of the May 12 elections.
“I believe that the outcome of the May 12 parliamentary elections must be decided on the streets,” he told RFE/RL. “There will be no elections as such.”
Hovannisian admitted that the AAK would fail to win at least 5 percent of the vote needed for winning seats in the National Assembly under the system of proportional representation. But he claimed that that would be the result of vote rigging and not its lack of popularity and political clout.
The former parliamentarian, who was a senior Communist Party member in Soviet times but now stands for Armenia’s membership in NATO, said the upcoming polls will mirror a weekend local election in the southern town of Armavir. Its incumbent mayor affiliated with the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) won reelection through a heavy use of government levers. The mayor’s main challenger representing another establishment party alleged massive fraud.
The AAK’s boycott follows a similar decision made by another, bigger opposition party, the National Democratic Union (AZhM), early this month. It resulted from the collapse of the AZhM’s talks with three other opposition groups over the formation of an electoral alliance.
The AZhM leader, Vazgen Manukian, argued that opposition parties stand no chance of winning a parliament majority by contesting the elections on their own. He also said the authorities’ have development more sophisticated “mechanisms for hiding vote falsifications.”
The other major opposition forces are clearly less pessimistic on this score. But at least one of them, the radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic), makes no secret of its intention to use the elections for staging a campaign of anti-government street protests.
(Photolur photo: Hovannes Hovannisian.)