Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday called on Armenia’s divided opposition to field common candidates for about one-third of the parliament seats that will be contested in single-mandate constituencies in the May 6 elections.
Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party and other leading opposition forces have nominated dozens of candidates in many of the 41 constituencies. Some of them will compete with each other and thus make it easier for pro-government candidates to win the elections.
“Now is the time for those who consider themselves to be in opposition … to sit around one table and, before it’s too late, and move forward in a reasonable and prudent way so that there remains only one common [opposition] candidate in each single-mandate district,” Hovannisian told a news conference.
The Zharangutyun leader confirmed reports that his party has already held unofficial consultations with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on the issue. But he said no agreements have been reached “yet.”
Hovannisian angered many HAK activists after it emerged on Thursday that he will not only head the list of Zharangutyun candidates running for parliament on the party-list basis but also stand in Yerevan’s single-seat District No. 7. The constituency covering much of Yerevan’s western Malatia-Sebastia administrative district is represented in the current National Assembly by Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s richest man backed by the ruling Republican Party (HHK). Aleksanian will be challenged there by Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken newspaper editor and senior HAK figure.
Pashinian applied for registration as a candidate in that district before the announcement of Hovannisian’s candidacy. Writing in online social networks, some HAK activists accused the Zharangutyun leader of deliberately splitting the opposition vote in an area long regarded as Aleksanian’s fiefdom.
Hovannisian said that he is ready, in principle, to drop out of the Malatia-Sebastia race as part of a would-be opposition agreement on the single-mandate districts.
The HAK, Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun unsuccessfully pushed for the abolition of all those districts earlier this year. They say the likelihood of massive vote rigging would decrease dramatically if the parliamentary elections were be held only under the system of proportional representation.