A senior representative of a fringe opposition group that has so far avoided participating in electoral processes in Armenia has urged a jailed activist who presented a bid last week to run for a mayor in his home village to stay out of the election.
Arayik Khandoyan, a member of the armed group, Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sassoun), that seized and held a police station in Yerevan for two weeks in a deadly standoff with security forces last month, wants to be elected head of the Tsaghkahovit community in Armenia’s western Aragatsotn province in a ballot scheduled for September 18.
His proxy submitted the necessary papers to the Central Electoral Commission shortly before the deadline for applications expired on Friday evening.
Khandoyan, a 45-year-old veteran of the 1992-94 Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan also known as “Lone Wolf”, currently faces charges of hostage-taking and illegal arms possession. But Armenia’s law allows citizens in pretrial detention to participate in elections as candidates as long as they are not convicted of a crime.
Armenia -- Karabakh war veteran Arayik Khandoyan during the occupation by the Sasna Tsrer group of a police station, Yerevan, 23Jul2016
If registered as a candidate, Khandoyan will run against the incumbent mayor of the village who is a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.
Meanwhile, the Founding Parliament, a hardline opposition movement to which Khandoyan and other Sasna Tsrer members are loyal, is known for its position not to participate in elections under the current government, giving preference to pushing for political changes through street protests.
Alek Yenigomshian, a senior representative of the radical group, has called on Khandoyan to withdraw from the race.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Yenigomshian, who himself faces charges of aiding the armed group and was recently freed from remand prison pending investigation and trial in his case, said that the Founding Parliament deems that under the current regime it is impossible to change the political situation in the country through elections.
“This was Khandoyan’s personal decision. It hadn’t been discussed [with the Founding Parliament] in advance. It does not imply any change of [the Founding Parliament’s] general position,” he said.
Yenigomshian said that he considered that other members of the Founding Parliament group, including its jailed leader Zhirayr Sefilian, would also discourage Khandoyan from participating in the elections as a candidate.
“I don’t exclude that there will be a change in the situation in this sense. The period for the withdrawal of candidacies is not over yet, and I do not rule out that [Khandoyan’s] nomination will be withdrawn,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of Khandoyan’s extended family in the village of Tsaghkahovit already claim obstacles from local authorities in promoting his bid. His brother’s wife, in particular, claimed that a government loyalist obstructed her involvement in the local election commission as a member.