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Opposition Leader Hints At Presidential Bid


Armenia -- Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party, at a news conference, 23July 2010.

Armenia -- Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party, at a news conference, 23July 2010.

Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday did not rule out the possibility of his participation in Armenia’s next presidential election, while stressing the need for the main opposition groups to field a single candidate.

Hovannisian said his Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party is initiating a dialogue with other major opposition forces and non-partisan groups opposed to the government to discuss this and other important issues facing the country. “We must be able to find a way of making sure that the society has its opposition candidate, who would be not just a man or woman but would carry a whole program based on collective responsibility,” he told journalists.

Hovannisian made clear that his party will be ready to go it alone if that dialogue fails. “Our preference is clearly to have a joint candidate and collective responsibility,” he said. “But given Armenia’s reality, in case of that not happening, we must also prepare for following Zharangutyun’s path.”

He said at the same time that it is “still too early” to speculate about his own presidential run.

The U.S.-born politician was controversially barred from contesting the last two presidential elections held in 2003 and 2008. Authorities argued that he had been granted Armenian citizenship only in 2001, more than a decade after moving to Armenia from the United States.

Under Armenia’s constitution, only those individuals who have been Armenian citizens and resided in the country for at least ten years preceding an election can be registered as presidential candidates.

Zharangutyun and its leader supported former President Levon Ter-Petrosian during the 2008 ballot and the ensuing government crackdown on his opposition movement. Relations between the party and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance have substantially cooled since then.

In a speech at a Zharangutyun congress on July 10, Hovannisian stated that Ter-Petrosian, his successor Robert Kocharian and the current President Serzh Sarkisian share responsibility for Armenia’s political and socioeconomic problems. His party has also rejected Ter-Petrosian’s recent declaration that Armenia’s sustainable development hinges on a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.

Still, Hovannisian’s recently appointed chairman, Ruben Hakobian, stressed that Zharangutyun is ready to cooperate with the HAK in fighting against electoral fraud, government corruption and what they both regard as a government cover-up of the March 2008 street violence in Yerevan.

The two opposition forces also stand for the holding of a pre-term presidential election. President Sarkisian’s term in office expires in April 2013.
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