By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Ramkavar Azatakan (HRAK), the only Armenian party to have officially endorsed President Robert Kocharian's reelection plans so far, hopes to form a new center-right political alliance to contest next year's parliamentary elections, its leader announced on Friday.
Ruben Mirzakhanian said the HRAK, which has a financially stronger sister organization in the Diaspora, is "actively working" with other parties and thinks that the talks will yield a positive result. "I think that the Ramkavar Azatakan party will participate in the next elections in a bloc," he told reporters.
Mirzakhanian refused to name his party's potential allies though. The two largest pro-Kocharian groups, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party (HHK) and the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), have already made it clear that they will go it alone in the 2003 polls. But neither has backed Kocharian's reelection bid yet.
A leader of the center-right HHK, Galust Sahakian, earlier this week scoffed at the HRAK's prompt endorsement of Kocharian and dismissed the party as a political lightweight. Mirzakhanian hit back on Friday, questioning the Republicans' moral integrity.
Informed sources said the most likely candidates to join the HRAK-led bloc are two small parties led by former prime minister Armen Darpinian and prominent Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikian. All of the three parties fared poorly in the previous elections and are not represented in the current parliament. They are also at odds with the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and several other liberal parties sympathetic to former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The HRAK had thrown its support behind Ter-Petrosian during the 1991 and 1996 presidential elections but is now vehemently critical of him.