By Hovannes Shoghikian and Shakeh Avoyan
The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party of Raffi Hovannisian is ready to cooperate with the pro-government majority in Armenia’s newly elected parliament despite its allegations of massive vote rigging, aides said on Tuesday.
Hovsep Khurshudian, the party spokesman, said Zharangutyun is ready to help the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and other parliamentary forces loyal to President Robert Kocharian implement policies that would “benefit the public.” But he stressed that that is contingent on the acceptance of seven parliament seats allotted won by the party as a result of the May 12 elections.
“The decision on whether or not to enter the parliament has yet to be made,” he told a news conference.
Larisa Alaverdian, whose name was second on the list of the party’s election candidates, confirmed the widely held belief that that decision will be positive. “As a member of the Zharangutyun faction [in parliament,] I believe we must not be antagonistic towards thinking and sound forces that are part of the Republican Party or the Prosperous Armenia Party, even though I continue to believe that they were not eligible [to contest the elections,]” she told RFE/RL.
Zharangutyun is one of the two opposition parties that cleared the 5 percent vote barrier to be represented in the new National Assembly under the system of proportional representation. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), it garnered just over 81,000 votes or about 7 percent of the total.
Hovannisian dismissed the official results as fraudulent last week, saying that in reality his party got three times as many votes. Still, he made it clear that he will not boycott parliament sessions or join more radical opposition groups that are contesting the election results in the streets.
Karen Avagian, a senior member of the HHK, found this stance hypocritical. “If you cast doubt on the [legality of the] election results, you must give up your mandates,” he said. He also shrugged off Zharangutyun claims that it polled 250,000 votes as a “ploy” designed to boost its political clout.
Nonetheless, Avagian was confident that Hovannisian will be in “constructive opposition” to the Armenian authorities. The U.S.-born politicians can, in particular, help them implement “democratic reforms,” he said.
Khurshudian also confirmed that Zharangutyun will not appeal against the CEC figures in Armenia’s Constitutional Court, saying that it lacks “sufficient legal grounds” to demand their annulment. He said at the same time that it does have some evidence of fraud that could be of use to other opposition parties that are planning to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
“We are already to present those facts to any other party that will approach us,” Khurshudian said, adding that they have already been made available to the radical Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party.
(Photolur photo: Hovannisian prepares to cast ballots in a Yerevan polling station on May 12.)