By Karine Kalantarian
Raffi Hovannisian, Armenia’s U.S.-born former foreign minister, said on Friday that he can easily defeat President Robert Kocharian in the event of a one-on-one showdown at the upcoming presidential elections.
“If the incumbent president and I contest the February 19 elections alone and if those elections are free, fair and transparent, I will score a convincing victory over Mr. Kocharian,” he told a news conference.
Hovannisian, who is seen as one of Kocharian’s main challengers, said many Armenians will embrace his agenda because he will offer them a “new, modern alternative” that can address many of the problems facing their country.
Hovannisian, who served as foreign minister in 1992, is one of 15 candidates nominated for the February vote. As the deadline for their registration by the Central Election Commission approaches, media spotlight will increasingly focus on his eligibility to run for president.
Armenia’s constitution stipulates that only those individuals who have been Armenian nationals and lived in the country for the ten previous years can contest presidential elections. Hovannisian, who moved to Yerevan from California in 1990, was granted Armenian citizenship only last year, despite numerous applications filed to immigration authorities since 1991.
The ex-minister reiterated on Friday that he is eligible to stand in the election because his attempts to become naturalized in Armenia had been “illegally” thwarted by the current and former authorities for many years. He said he will therefore sue the CEC if it refuses to place his name on the ballots.
Hovannisian added that in that case the court must also pass a judgment on the eligibility of “other candidates,” apparently referring to Kocharian who moved to Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh less than six years ago.