By Hovannes Shoghikian and Ruben Meloyan
The only opposition party represented in Armenia’s parliament will not join forces with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) to contest the upcoming mayoral elections in Yerevan, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party’s governing board made the decision at a late-night meeting on Monday that followed its negotiations with the HAK. The latter said on Sunday that Ter-Petrosian will top the list of its candidates in the May 31 elections of a municipal council that will choose the next mayor of Yerevan. The 18-party alliance also expressed readiness to form an electoral bloc with Zharangutyun.
According to Hovsep Khurshudian, a spokesman for Zharangutyun, representatives of the two opposition forces met and exchanged views on the composition of their possible joint list of candidates. “Unfortunately, Zharangutyun’s and the HAK’s views on that list did not converge,” he told RFE/RL. “The HAK did not accept a variant proposed by Zharangutyun, as a result of which we can conclude that the negotiations on a joint list ended in failure.”
Khurshudian declined to specify if Zharangutyun and its top leader, Raffi Hovannisian, objected to Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy for the post of Yerevan mayor. Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s parliamentary leader, also skirted the question.
“I think there must be a logic behind the [joint] list,” Martirosian told RFE/RL. “The list has to be competitive and victorious.” He also refused to disclose his party’s election-related proposal to the HAK.
But in the words of Anahit Bakhshian, the nominal party chairwoman, Zharangutyun would agree to team up with the HAK if Martirosian, and not Ter-Petrosian, was their common mayoral candidate. She said Ter-Petrosian’s name was only second on the would-be opposition bloc’s electoral slate proposed by her party.
“Our proposal was not accepted, and we decided that there will be no joint list and that we will probably act separately,” Bakhshian told journalists. She did not exclude that the two opposition forces may yet “again sit at the negotiating table” and seemed confident that they will at least work together in preventing possible vote irregularities.
Martirosian, for his part, did not rule out the possibility of a Zharangutyun boycott of the polls. He said the party, which had endorsed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential bid, will ascertain its plans “in the coming days.” The official deadline for the nomination of election candidates is March 22.
Meanwhile, the HAK was on Tuesday careful not to openly criticize its opposition partner’s decision. “I am sure the public understands well which [opposition] list is more competitive, and I see no need for further comment,” Arman Musinian, a spokesman for the alliance, told RFE/RL.
When asked whether he thinks the Zharangutyun move will reduce the Armenian opposition’s electoral chances, Musinian said, “I think it’s worth waiting a little and making a clear assessment after the whole process is over.”
Explaining Ter-Petrosian’s surprise decision to run for Yerevan mayor, HAK representatives have said that the opposition alliance views the municipal elections as an opportunity to accelerate leadership change in Armenia. The elections will be held under the system of proportional representation, with parties and political alliances needing at least 7 percent and 9 percent of the vote respectively to be represented in the 65-member municipal assembly.
(Photolur photo: Levon Ter-Petrosian and Raffi Hovannisian pictured during a February 2008 rally in Yerevan.)