Election officials in a Yerevan constituency on Wednesday decided to disqualify a prominent opposition member from contesting a parliament seat in Armenia’s May 6 vote citing his failure to meet the residence requirement.
Millionaire businessman Khachatur Sukiasian, who is affiliated with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), planned to run for parliament in a central Yerevan constituency which he had long represented in the Armenian legislature. However, the Armenian police refused to certify that he has permanently resided in the country for the past five years and is, therefore, eligible to participate in the elections.
The tycoon was among several Ter-Petrosian associates who fled the country in March 2008 to escape arrest following deadly post-election clashes between security forces and opposition protesters demanding the rerun of a disputed presidential election. He returned to Armenia in 2009 to face controversial criminal charges stemming from the unrest.
Sukiasian’s lawyer Ara Zohrabian raised objections to the district election committee’s decision, saying that the 10-month period during which his client was outside Armenia constituted less than a fifth of the entire period under review, while the law requires that a candidate should reside in a country for the greater part of the five-year period. He said Sukiasian would appeal the decision at an administrative court.
Earlier, the HAK denounced the police action as politically motivated and challenged it by including Sukiasian on its proportional list as well. Sukiasian’s younger brother, Saribek, had also been nominated in single-mandate constituency N10.
The HAK's senior member Levon Zurabian confirmed to RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the opposition alliance will support Saribek Sukiasian's candidacy in the mentioned single-seat district.
It was immediately not clear whether Khachatur Sukiasian's failure to meet the five-year permanent residence requirement would also disqualify him from running for the parliament on the HAK's proportional list, where he holds the tenth spot.