By Armen Zakarian
Stepan Demirchian, the top opposition candidate in this year's Armenian presidential election, has still not decided whether to appeal against its controversial results to the European Court for Human Rights, aides said on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Demirchian's People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Ruzan Khachatrian, said he continues to consult with lawyers on the wisdom of the action. Khachatrian said that while Demirchian remains adamant in not recognizing President Robert Kocharian's reelection, he is anxious "not to damage Armenia's international standing."
Armenia placed itself under the jurisdiction of the European Court after becoming a member of the Council of Europe in January 2001. Armenian citizens are now able to file a human rights-related lawsuit against their government to the Strasbourg-based judicial body after exhausting all possibilities of legal action in their country.
The recent rejection by Armenia's Constitutional Court of Demirchian's demand to invalidate the vote results paved the way for the European Court's consideration of opposition allegations that the presidential election was rigged by Kocharian. But Demirchian has since been more preoccupied with preparations for the May 25 parliamentary elections which his Artarutyun (Justice) bloc comprising the HZhK and a dozen other opposition parties hopes to win.
The HZhK spokeswoman reaffirmed the bloc's ambitious goal, saying that its chances of winning the majority of seats in the Armenian parliament are "very big." But she said the authorities are "doing everything" to prevent the legislature from falling under opposition control, something which would jeopardize Kocharian's hold on power.
The Armenian president's allies, meanwhile, are confident that they will enjoy a comfortable majority in the next National Assembly.