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Jailed Oppositionist Seeks Vacant Parliament Seat


Armenia - Nikol Pashinian, Armenian opposition activist, in court, Yerevan, 28Oct, 2009

Armenia - Nikol Pashinian, Armenian opposition activist, in court, Yerevan, 28Oct, 2009

An outspoken newspaper editor and opposition figure currently on trial for his alleged role in last year’s post-election violence has made a bid to contest a parliament seat recently vacated by another prominent oppositionist.

Nikol Pashinian, who is currently in jail as his trial continues at a Yerevan court, wants to run for parliament in a by-election in Armenia’s single-mandate constituency that had returned Khachatur Sukiasian, a wealthy businessman and prominent supporter of former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, to the National Assembly during previous legislative polls. Sukiasian, who like Pashinian went into hiding to avoid arrest in the aftermath of the unrest and surrendered to the authorities in September, resigned his seat shortly after being released from pre-trial detention pending trial in protest against the government-controlled parliament’s decision in March 2008 to lift his and his opposition colleagues’ immunity from prosecution.

Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Friday voiced support for Pashinian’s bid and pledged every effort to secure his election.

“If it were a fight for a mandate, we would not have entered the fray,” senior HAK member Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL.

Earlier, the Ter-Petrosian-led alliance, known to boycott elections to “illegitimate bodies”, effectively refused to provide its backing to another prominent opposition figure, Suren Sureniants, who also intended to run for parliament in the same constituency, but eventually changed his mind.

Furthermore, Sureniants told RFE/RL on Friday that he himself is ready to support Pashinian’s bid.

“Because I am convinced that Pashinian’s bid is sincere and cannot be aimed against the goals of the popular movement,” explained Sureniants.

Tatev Ohanian, a spokesperson for the Central Election Commission, told RFE/RL that five people so far have submitted the necessary documents to become candidates in the constituency. Among them are also former transport and communication minister Eduard Madatian and political analyst Hmayak Hovannisian.

The vote is slated for January 10 next year.

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