By Astghik Bedevian
Leading Armenian opposition parties held on Tuesday a second round of negotiations on the possibility of fielding a single candidate in next year’s presidential election.
Their leaders were tight-lipped about details of the talks. Some of them said only that they again did not discuss names of concrete individuals who could successfully challenge Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian during the vote.
“One of the participants said that everyone is ready to put aside their ambitions for the sake of national welfare,” said Paruyr Hayrikian, a prominent Soviet-era dissident and the main initiator of the talks. “Nobody objected to that.”
“Right now we need to ascertain the team that would enter the fray with a different value system,” Hayrikian told RFE/RL. “It is not important who will lead the team. The best player should not necessarily be the team captain.”
“We are not discussing concrete candidacies yet,” said another participant, Manuk Gasparian.
Participants again included opposition heavyweights like Stepan Demirchian, Artashes Geghamian and Artur Baghdasarian. All three men are believed to continue to harbor presidential ambitions despite their parties’ poor showing in last May’s parliamentary elections. It remains to be seen whether any of them is ready to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of another presidential contender.
Baghdasarian described Tuesday’s consultations as “very useful” but refused to go into details. Demirchian and Geghamian could not be reached for comment.
Another top opposition leader, Raffi Hovannisian, failed to send representatives to the latest talks. They were again openly boycotted by two other prominent oppositionists, Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union and Aram Sarkisian of the radical Hanrapetutyun party. Manukian has already made it clear that he will run for president in any case, while Sarkisian and his allies make no secret of their support for former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
All of the participants interviewed by RFE/RL insisted that Ter-Petrosian’s possible participation in the 2008 election was not on the agenda of their meeting.
(Photolur photo: Paruyr Hayrikian.)