By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Leaders of the 16-party Armenian opposition coalition were on Friday quick to downplay their emerging differences which led three of its members to form a separate, much closer electoral alliance Thursday.
They disagreed with the dominant mood that the creation of a left-wing alliance comprising Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity party, the Communists and the Socialist Armenia bloc exposed a serious rift inside the opposition.
According to Vagharshak Harutiunian, a senior member of the Hanrapetutyun party, the 16 opposition parties continue to pursue the same agenda, despite their failure so far to put forward a joint presidential candidate. “That [three-part] alliance will come up with one presidential candidate who will aspire to become a single opposition candidate,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL.
“It’s just that there is some consolidation going on inside the union of 16. So I don’t see any problems right now,” said Aleksandr Butayev, deputy chairman of the center-right National Democratic Union (AZhM).
The two men spoke after a weekly meeting of an ad hoc council coordinating joint actions of the 16 parties. The meeting was attended by representatives of National Unity, the Communist Party and Socialist Armenia. The council made no decisions except endorsing a revised version of draft amendments to the Armenian election law proposed by the opposition.
The three left-wing parties, signaling their support for Geghamian’s presidential bid, announced that said their “popular-patriotic alliance” will contest next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections with common candidates and platform.
Their opposition allies, who are reluctant to endorse Geghamian, say they were kept in the dark by the troika. One of them, National Democratic Party leader Shavarsh Kocharian, admitted on Friday that the move “complicates” the opposition’s ability to agree on a single challenger against President Robert Kocharian in next February’s presidential elections.
He said failure to find such a candidate would make it much easier for the incumbent to win a second term.