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Opposition Bloc To Boycott Parliament By-Elections


Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, undated

Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, undated

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Friday that it will boycott the upcoming parliamentary by-elections in three constituencies that were until recently represented in the National Assembly by its prominent members.

Two of those lawmakers, Hakob Hakobian and Sasun Mikaelian, were stripped of their mandates last month because of receiving prison sentences for their alleged role in last year’s post-election violence in Yerevan. Hakobian qualified for a general amnesty and was set free in June, while Mikaelian remains in prison due to a harsher punishment set by a court.

The third parliamentarian, Khachatur Sukiasian, resigned his seat at around the same time in protest against the government-controlled parliament’s decision in March 2008 to lift his and his opposition colleagues’ immunity from prosecution. Sukiasian is currently not under arrest but may still go on trial on charges stemming from the 2008 unrest.

Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, said the opposition alliance will not seek to win back its modest representation in the parliament because of its insistence on the conduct of fresh nationwide parliamentary as well as presidential elections.

“The National Assembly absolutely does not reflect the will of the Armenian people and is a puppet of Serzh Sarkisian,” Zurabian told RFE/RL. “We find any presence in that National Assembly meaningless.”

The by-elections in Hakobian’s and Mikaelian’s single-mandate constituencies, located in Yerevan’s western Malatia-Sebastia district and the central town of Hrazdan respectively, will take place on December 6. It emerged on Friday that there will be only one candidate in each of those districts, making the outcome of the polls an forgone conclusion. The candidates represent the ruling Republican and Prosperous Armenia parties.

Neither party has so far fielded a candidate for the by-election in Sukiasian’s constituency covering a part of central Yerevan. Several political figures have already expressed their intention to contest the vote scheduled for January 10.

One of them, Suren Sureniants, is a senior member of Hanrapetutyun (Republic), one of the two dozen parties aligned in the HAK. Speaking to RFE/RL, he defended his decision and disagreed with the HAK’s boycott of the polls, saying that the opposition bloc only hurts itself by avoiding “active participation in processes.”

Sureniants also said the Hanrapetutyun leadership will decide next week whether to support his candidacy.
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