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New Opposition Party ‘Confident’ About Parliament Entry


Armenia - Alexander Arzumanian, a leader of the opposition Free Democrats party, at a news conference in Yerevan, 2Feb2012.

Armenia - Alexander Arzumanian, a leader of the opposition Free Democrats party, at a news conference in Yerevan, 2Feb2012.

A leader of a new opposition party formed by former associates of Levon Ter-Petrosian on Thursday expressed confidence that it will be represented in Armenia’s next parliament to be elected in May.

Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian also reiterated that his Free Democrats party is discussing with the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party the possibility of forming an electoral alliance.

“Neither we nor Zharangutyun have excluded that we may act in a joint team,” he told reporters. “We see no problem with that. But discussions are still going on.”

Under the Armenian law, an electoral bloc needs to garner at least 7 percent of the vote in order to win parliament seats under the system of proportional representation. The vote threshold for a single party is set at 5 percent.

Arzumanian made clear that Free Democrats will not team up with any other major opposition force, including Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK). “You cannot enter the same river twice,” he said, referring to the HAK.

Arzumanian and other leaders of the new party left the HAK along with dozens of other opposition activists in 2010 because of reported differences with Ter-Petrosian, Armenia’s first president. Arzumanian served as foreign minister in the Ter-Petrosian administration and managed the ex-president’s 2008 presidential election campaign.

The prominent oppositionist insisted that regardless of political configurations and the Armenian authorities’ handling of the elections Free Democrats will have seats in the new parliament. He said the overall number of opposition groups represented in the legislature will also rise.

Zharangutyun and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) are the only opposition parties holding seats in the current National Assembly.

“There is an established opposition, there is a fighting institutionalized opposition in Armenia,” said Arzumanian. “There is the HAK, our party, Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun. So in terms of representation there will be more parties.”

In Arzumanian’s words, one of the goals of Free Democrats is to turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic. “The presidential system doesn’t work in Armenia,” he said. “Anyone becoming president of Armenia under the existing system develops authoritarian tendencies and starts exploiting the whole system. In our view the best way to prevent that is to switch to a parliamentary republic.”

“So I think we will get in [the parliament] and raise these issues. And in case of strong presence, we may also succeed in changing [the government system,]” he added.
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