Raffi Hovannisian will not back fellow opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in Armenia’s next presidential election and will himself contest it, a senior member of his Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party said on Wednesday.
“In my personal view, you can’t enter the same river twice,” Armen Martirosian told journalists. “Especially given that Zharangutyun has its own candidate.” Hovannisian will run for president in the next ballot due in 2013, he said.
Hovannisian, who was born in the United States and received Armenian citizenship in 2001, was controversially barred from contesting the last two presidential elections held in 2003 and 2008. He and his party endorsed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential bid and strongly condemned the ensuing government crackdown on the former Armenian president’s opposition movement.
Relations between Zharangutyun 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.
The Zharangutyun leader hinted at his own presidential run later in July. He indicated that the country’s leading opposition forces may well fail to agree on a single presidential candidate.
Martirosian, who was the party’s nominal chairman until recently, said at the same time that Zharangutyun is ready to team up with the HAK for parliamentary elections due in May 2012. “I rule out the possibility of Zharangutyun [not contesting the elections] and endorsing the HAK,” he said. “The [May 2009] municipal elections in Yerevan were quite a good lesson for Zharangutyun. But I don’t exclude a common list [of candidates] with the HAK.”
Zharangutyun, which holds six seats in Armenia’s 131-member parliament, decided not to participate in the municipal polls after failing to form an electoral alliance with the HAK. The Ter-Petrosian-led bloc rejected as fraudulent their official results that showed it winning 17.4 percent of the vote. While echoing the fraud allegations, Zharangutyun leaders said the HAK is also to blame for the poor showing.
HAK spokesman Arman Musinian refused comment on Martirosian’s remarks. He said the HAK will only respond to statements officially made by Hovannisian’s party.