By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s leading opposition parties grouped around defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian have agreed to form an alliance for next May’s parliamentary elections, opposition sources said on Thursday.
Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) and over a dozen other groups, fresh from the dramatic electoral battle with President Robert Kocharian, will come up with a single list of candidates in a bid to win a majority in the National Assembly. Sources told RFE/RL that topping the electoral slate will be Demirchian, Hanrapetutyun party leader Aram Sarkisian and two former presidential candidates defeated in the February 19 first round of voting: Vazgen Manukian and Aram Karapetian.
“That the opposition will act in a united front is already clear,” said Stepan Zakarian, a senior member of the HZhK. He said the opposition leaders have already agreed on “95 percent of the list.”
The name and final make-up of the alliance will be announced before Sunday’s deadline for the nomination of candidates for 75 parliament seats contested on the party list basis and 56 seats distributed in individual constituencies. Opposition leaders are expected to run under both systems.
Zakarian made it clear at the same time that the opposition will continue to fight for the invalidation of the official results of the disputed presidential election which gave victory to Kocharian. He said the Demirchian camp may still decide to boycott the parliamentary elections if it feels that they will not be more democratic than the presidential race.
Hanrapetutyun’s Albert Bazeyan made a similar point in separate comments to journalists. He said the opposition will contest the polls only if Kocharian steps down or is “too weak to falsify them.”
Kocharian, whose reelection was strongly criticized by Western observers, pledged Wednesday to rule out more vote irregularities during the May 25 elections.
“We are convinced that there will be a serious change of political situation in Armenia before the parliamentary elections,” Bazeyan said. “We will take part in the elections only in that case.”
The Demirchian campaign is expected to appeal to the Constitutional Court on Friday to declare Kocharian’s reelection invalid. The court is unlikely to meet the demand, however. Some opposition leaders have already said that they will eventually take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.