By Astghik Bedevian
Former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian will stand in Armenia’s forthcoming presidential election and will not endorse any other opposition candidate, his Orinats Yerkir Party said on Monday.
The announcement followed a weekend meeting of the Orinats Yerkir leadership that discussed the party’s pre-election strategy. It bore out analysts’ forecasts that Baghdasarian will not withdraw from the presidential race in favor of any other opposition leader.
“The Orinats Yerkir will participate in the forthcoming presidential elections with its own candidate,” Artashes Avoyan, a senior Orinats Yerkir parliamentarian, told RFE/RL. “We are talking about the party leader,” he said.
Avoyan added that Baghdasarian will be formally nominated as a presidential candidate at a party congress scheduled for the beginning of November.
The development is a further indication that Armenia’s divided opposition will fail to rally around one or even two major candidates ahead of the presidential ballot due in February or March. Such a consolidation is widely seen as a necessary condition for mounting a serious challenge against Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the election favorite. Several opposition politicians have already declared their intention to run for president on their own.
Baghdasarian, who served as parliament speaker until Orinats Yerkir’s ouster from the Armenia’s governing coalition in 2005, was among a dozen or so opposition figures who held talks recently over the possibility of forming an electoral alliance.
Avoyan downplayed the significance of those talks, saying that they did not yield any agreements. He said Baghdasarian, who has long been harboring presidential ambitions, will enter the fray because his “high approval rating.”
According to official results of Armenia’s May parliamentary elections, Orinats Yerkir won more votes than any other opposition groups. It currently occupies eight seats in the 131-member National Assembly.