Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has resigned his parliamentary seat in a move which his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party linked on Monday to Armenia’s approaching presidential election.
Hovannisian announced his resignation at a meeting of Zharangutyun’s governing board on Sunday. The board accepted it.
Hovannisian, who had served as Armenia’s first foreign minister, was elected to the National Assembly in May along with four other individuals topping a joint list of candidates drawn up by Zharangutyun and another opposition party, the Free Democrats.
Commenting on the resignation, Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, said Zharangutyun and its leader have “quite a lot of work” to do ahead of the presidential election due in February. “One should bear in mind that presidential elections are coming up and it’s possible that [Hovannisian] will be nominated as a presidential candidate,” Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed this explanation, saying that Hovannisian could easily run for president while remaining a parliament deputy. Sahakian said that the Zharangutyun leader should also “respect” those Armenians who voted for his party in the last parliamentary elections.
Hovannisian, who was born in the United States and immigrated to Armenia in 1990, is widely expected to be one of the main opposition presidential candidates.
Under Armenian law, Hovannisian will formally cease to be a parliament deputy if he does not withdraw his resignation letter in the next 15 days. He already resigned from the previous National Assembly in September 2009 only to change his mind several days later.