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New Opposition Bloc Raises Questions


Armenia - Raffi Hovannisian (C) and senior members of his Zharangutyun party discuss upcoming parliamentary elections, 18Mar2012.

Armenia - Raffi Hovannisian (C) and senior members of his Zharangutyun party discuss upcoming parliamentary elections, 18Mar2012.

Two major opposition parties have officially joined forces to contest Armenia upcoming parliamentary elections with a list of joint candidates that has prompted strong objections from some of their senior members.

The Zharangutyun (Heritage) and Free Democrats parties publicized the list on Sunday after it was reportedly approved by their governing bodies. It is topped by their respective chairmen, Raffi Hovannisian and Khachatur Kokobelian, and comprises individuals not affiliated with either party.

The slate’s composition is such that only two of Zharangutyun’s seven deputies in the outgoing National Assembly -- Hovannisian and Zaruhi Postanjian -- will stand a realistic chance of entering the next Armenian parliament under the system proportional representation.

Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s former nominal chairman, is only 16th on the list, behind less prominent members of his party as well as several Free Democrats, including former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian.

Martirosian and two other Zharangutyun deputies, Stepan Safarian and Anahit Bakhshian, will also run for the parliament in single-mandate constituencies in Yerevan. They will likely face wealthy pro-government candidates who traditionally do well in elections held on an individual basis.

Karine Hakobian, the Zharangutyun secretary, resigned as party member on Monday in protest against “this unfair list” which she said was single-handedly drawn up by Hovannisian. She was unhappy with the inclusion of “young people absolutely unknown to the society.”

“I was taken aback,” Hakobian told a news conference. “It was a surprise for everyone.”

Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, dismissed her claims, saying that the list was discussed and underwent major changes before being approved by the party’s Board and larger Council at the weekend. “Considerable changes were made as a result of the discussions,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Also voicing objections were some members of the Free Democrats board. “Clearly, there were always going to be objections and comments,” the Free Democrats spokeswoman, Anzhela Khachatrian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I find it normal. But the board approved the list with a majority of votes.”
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