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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian is negotiating with other opposition leader on the nomination of a single opposition candidate in next year’s presidential election, a leading member of his Orinats Yerkir Party said on Wednesday.

But Heghine Bisharian, secretary of the Orinats Yerkir caucus in Armenia’s parliament, did not specify whether this means that he is ready to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of another opposition hopeful.

“Negotiations are underway,” Bisharian told a news conference. “There are leaders, [potential presidential] candidates who are discussing all possible options among themselves. I think that as long as the negotiations are not over, it will be wrong to speculate about who will yield to whom.”

Baghdasarian, 38, is believed to have long harbored presidential ambitions. He was viewed as one of President Robert Kocharian’s potential handpicked successors before Orinats Yerkir’s 2006 ouster from the ruling coalition that cost him the post of parliament speaker.

Orinats Yerkir made a worse-than-expected showing in last May’s parliamentary elections, polling only about 7 percent of the vote. Even so, according to official election results, it fared better than any other opposition party. The ambitious ex-speaker may thus feel that he would be the Armenian opposition’s most popular opposition candidate.

“In our political field there is politician who can be compared with Artur Baghdasarian,” declared Bisharian.

Accordingly, Bisharian was quite lukewarm towards the idea of the opposition rallying around former Levon Ter-Petrosian during the presidential election. “If he runs, let those who are happy with his track record vote for him,” she said, indicating her belief that Ter-Petrosian is not popular enough to win the vote.

The Orinats Yerkir leader also did not rule out the possibility of Baghdasarian cooperating with some pro-government forces ahead of the ballot. “If there are such changes in the run-up to the presidential elections that will lead to new political realignments, we won’t exclude anything,” she said without elaborating.
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