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By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s fragmented opposition will fail to nominate a single candidate for next year’s presidential election despite its leaders’ stated support for the idea, a top ally of former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian predicted on Tuesday.

The country’s main opposition groups admit that their failure to join forces was a key reason for their extremely poor showing in the May 12 parliamentary elections. Their leaders agree that the opposition will hardly fare better in the 2008 ballot if it fails to form major electoral alliances. Some are understood to have already begun discussing possible presidential candidacies.

“We welcome the notion that we must rally around a single candidate to be able to meet challenges facing our country,” said Hovannes Markarian, a leading member of Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir Party, one of only two opposition forces represented in parliament.

“But given our experience, we know well that there will hardly be a unification around one candidate and there will be two or three [opposition] candidates at best,” he said. “This is the lesser evil which I would like to see.”

Observers consider Baghdasarian to be among those opposition leaders with presidential ambitions who are unlikely to quit the race and endorse another opposition candidate. Markarian reinforced this belief by strongly advocating Baghdasarian’s participation in the presidential election. He said the ambitious ex-speaker possess all necessary qualities of a prospective head of state.

“Artur Baghdasarian is known not only in our country but also outside it,” Markarian told a news conference.

He would not say whether Orinats Yerkir could endorse a possible presidential bid by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy is backed by several smaller pro-Western opposition groups. However, the ex-presidential has so far left no indication that he is ready his nearly decade-long silence and return to active politics.

(Photolur photo: Hovannes Markarian.)
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