By Astghik Bedevian
The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on Wednesday defended its refusal to back former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy for the post of Yerevan mayor, saying that many city residents do not support him.
Zharangutyun, which is led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, decided late Monday not to form an alliance with Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) for the May 31 municipal elections.
The two opposition forces failed to agree on who should lead their would-be list of candidates to a municipal assembly that will choose the Armenian capital’s next mayor. The HAK nominated Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy, while Zharangutyun insisted that the list should be topped by Armen Maritorsian, its young parliamentary leader.
“There is a large segment of the electorate that finds it hard to vote for Levon Ter-Petrosian,” Hovsep Khurshudian, the Zharangutyun spokesman, said, explaining the party’s position. Khurshudian claimed these voters would rather back a young leader like Martirosian than opposition heavyweights like Ter-Petrosian or even Hovannisian.
“Gagik Beglarian should have been up against a new, young figure whom those influential politicians [Ter-Petrosian and Hovannisian] would carry on their shoulders to victory,” he said, referring to the incumbent Yerevan mayor who will lead the ruling Republican Party’s electoral list.
Khurshudian also complained that leaders of the 18 opposition groups making up the HAK picked Ter-Petrosian as their mayoral candidate on Sunday without consulting with Zharangutyun. “I note with regret that that did not happen as a result of negotiations with Zharangutyun,” he told a news conference. “The decision that they put at the negotiating table was essentially non-negotiable. There were only a few things subject to discussion.”
“We should have made that decision together,” he added.
Zharangutyun, which is the only opposition party represented in Armenia’s parliament, endorsed Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy in last year’s presidential election and holds the authorities responsible for the deadly post-election clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. It has also campaigned for the immediate and unconditional release of dozens of Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested following the troubled vote.
Hovsepian agreed with those who think that the HAK’s and Zharangutyun’s failure to team up for the upcoming polls will lose the Armenian opposition votes. “Many people will stay at home [on May 31] as a result of apathy and disappointment with the opposition,” he said. He claimed at the same time that the opposition will nonetheless win a majority in the municipal assembly.
(Photolur photo: Hovsep Khurshudian.)