By Emil Danielyan
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian reaffirmed on Wednesday his desire to join Armenia’s intensifying presidential race, urging President Robert Kocharian to recognize his eligibility to stand in the February 19 election.
Hovannisian had been controversially barred by from contesting the previous presidential election on the grounds that he had not been an Armenian citizen for the previous ten years, something which is required by the country’s constitution. He received an Armenian passport in 2001, more than a decade after moving to Yerevan from California with his family.
Kocharian rejected at the time Hovannisian’s demand that his citizenship be backdated to 1991. The U.S.-born politician claimed that his repeated citizenship applications had been illegally ignored by Kocharian and his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian.
In a written appeal to Kocharian, Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party stopped short of explicitly accusing the Armenian president of breaking the law, only urging him to “restore justice.” It also argued that Hovannisian had served as independent Armenia’s first foreign minister and is now one of the country’s most popular political figures.
“Based on the above-mentioned [arguments,] the Zharangutyun Party’s board expects him [Kocharian] to immediately reconsider and satisfy the public demand to grant Raffi K. Hovannisian citizenship effective from the declaration of the Republic,” the statement said.
Kocharian’s office promised to comment on the statement on Thursday.
Zharangutyun did relatively well in last May’s parliamentary elections, becoming one of only two opposition parties represented in the National Assembly. Its leader is therefore certain to be courted by other opposition presidential candidates, notably Ter-Petrosian.
Ter-Petrosian has already called on Hovannisian, whom he had named foreign minister in late 1991 and sacked less than a year later, to endorse his presidential bid. Zharangutyun has not yet responded to the call.