By Anna Saghabalian
Armenia’s main opposition forces should choose former President Levon Ter-Petrosian as their joint candidate in next year’s presidential election if they want to achieve regime change, a leader of his Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party said on Friday.
The failure by those forces to form alliances is seen as one of the main reason for the Armenian opposition’s poor showing in the May 12 parliamentary elections. A growing number of their leaders are now voicing support for the idea of fielding a single opposition candidate in the presidential ballot due in February or March 2008. Some have reportedly agreed to open negotiations on the issue soon.
Aram Manukian, deputy chairman of the HHSh, also backed the idea, saying that the fragmented and demoralized opposition simply has no other choice. He insisted that Ter-Petrosian is the only politician capable of defeating the ruling establishment’s most likely candidate, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, in the presidential ballot.
“Unfortunately, I just don’t see any other candidate who can be strong and experienced, have a program and the ability to bring together even political forces at odds with each other, and then win with that team and, ultimately and most importantly, hold on to his votes,” Manukian told journalists. “In that sense, I think Ter-Petrosian has the best chances.”
Manukian downplayed the fact that the reclusive ex-president, who has kept an extremely low profile ever since his resignation over nine years ago, has left no indication that he is ready to make a political comeback and join the presidential race. “Have you ever heard Levon Ter-Petrosian or his office say the opposite?” argued Manukian.
Ter-Petrosian made one of his most recent public appearances in late March when he briefly attended a congress of the HHSh, of which he remains the unofficial top leader. As always, he refused to take any questions from reporters.
The HHSh chairman, Ararat Zurabian, claimed at the time that Ter-Petrosian, 62, will “definitely” run for president.
(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian surrounded by Manukian, left, and other HHSh leaders during the party congress in March.)