By Shakeh Avoyan and Ruzanna Khachatrian
The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) said on Monday it hopes that former president Levon Ter-Petrosian will agree to be its candidate in next February’s presidential elections.
The party’s deputy chairman, Andranik Hovakimian, told RFE/RL, that the center-right opposition party will “definitely” endorse Ter-Petrosian if he decides to run for president. But he cautioned that the 57-year-old ex-president has not yet made a final decision on his possible return to active politics.
Other HHSh leaders earlier expressed confidence that Ter-Petrosian will stand in the polls. However, individuals close to him have indicated that he is unlikely to seek a return to power without the support of a broad range of opposition forces.
Hovakimian said the HHSh, which was ousted from power in 1998 together with Ter-Petrosian, is now “actively” preparing for the upcoming local, presidential and parliamentary elections. The local elections are scheduled for October.
Preparations for them are already getting underway in major party headquarters. A senior member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Samvel Nikoyan, told RFE/RL that the HHK is looking to increase its already strong representation in local self-government bodies. He said the Republicans led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian are now considering striking electoral alliances with two other major parties supporting President Robert Kocharian: the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir.
The Dashnaktsutyun spokesman, Gegham Manukian, shrugged off opposition arguments that Kocharian and his allied parties have gained unfair advantage over their rivals through their control of the newly formed election commissions. “We are convinced that the number of seats you have in the election commissions does not predetermine the outcome of the elections,” he said.
However, the People’s Party (HZhK), one of Armenia’s biggest opposition groups not represented in those commissions, maintains that the authorities are thereby seeking to falsify the election results. A leading member of the HZhK, Stepan Demirchian, said his party will try to stave off fraud with the help of the proxies of HZhK candidates.
Similar concerns were expressed by Albert Bazeyan, a leader of another influential opposition party, Hanrapetutyun.
The mood in the opposition camp was summed up by Hrant Khachatrian, chairman of the Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM), who said: “We are bracing ourselves for the toughest elections in Armenia’s history.”