By Astghik Bedevian
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian visited the headquarters of Stepan Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) and met dozens of its activists on Thursday in an apparent bid to secure its support for his presidential bid.
Over the past few weeks Ter-Petrosian has held consultations with various opposition leaders to ascertain their attitude towards his participation in the approaching presidential election. It was the first time that he met ordinary party activists as well. The meeting came about a week after he announced that he will run for president.
Demirchian told RFE/RL that Ter-Petrosian spent more than an hour addressing some 70 HZhK members and answering their questions. He said the meeting took place in an “atmosphere of mutual understanding.”
The HZhK was once the country’s most influential opposition force but has lost much of its popularity in recent years, failing to win a single parliament seat. But it still claims to number tens of thousands of members and is clearly regarded as a major opposition force by Ter-Petrosian and his allies.
Demirchian insisted that he and his party have yet to decide whether to endorse Ter-Petrosian for the Armenian presidency. “We need to consult with party members,” he said. “In that sense, this meeting was very important and useful.”
“The party will express its position during the official nomination [of presidential candidates,]” he added.
Demirchian also said that the HZhK activists urged Ter-Petrosian to “talk to the people” and address “unanswered questions” about his past and future political activities. The ex-president promised to answer them “very soon,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian also made a point of visiting a museum on the ground floor of the HZhK headquarters dedicated to Demirchian’s late father Karen, Armenia’s popular former parliament speaker assassinated in the October 1999 attack on the National Assembly.
Karen Demirchian was also a longtime leader of Soviet Armenia. He was sacked as first secretary of the Armenian Communist Party in 1988 for failing to halt a popular movement for Nagorno-Karabakh’s unification with Armenia. Ter-Petrosian was one of the leaders of that movement.
The 1999 parliament attack was a major theme of Ter-Petrosian’s long speech delivered during a rally in Yerevan last Friday. Echoing the views of the late Demirchian’s relatives and supporters, Ter-Petrosian effectively implicated President Robert Kocharian in orchestrating the killings.
(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian visits the Karen Demirchian museum.)