By Astghik Bedevian
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian on Friday all but ruled out the possibility of his People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) forming a new alliance with other opposition groups ahead of the May parliamentary elections.
The HZhK will hold a congress on Saturday to discuss and approve its electoral strategy. Demirchian indicated that one of Armenia’s largest opposition parties will decide to go it alone despite offers made by other forces opposed to President Robert Kocharian.
“The HZhK is inclined to contest the elections separately,” he told RFE/RL in an interview. “The HZhK no doubt has the potential for doing that.” In any case, he said, it is ready to cooperate with others in “ensuring free, fair and democratic elections.”
Demirchian, who was Kocharian’s main challenger in the last presidential election, did not deny that he has been offered to team up with the parties led by three other prominent oppositionists: Aram Sarkisian, Raffi Hovannisian and Vazgen Manukian. But he denied reports that turned down the offer because many HZhK activists feel that their party can do well on its own.
“Creation of alliances must not be an end in itself. Loose alliances bring no benefits,” Demirchian said, apparently alluding to the HZhK-led Artarutyun alliance that was set up in the run-up to the previous parliamentary elections and has since grown moribund.
Demirchian’s stance effectively precludes the establishment of a new broad-based opposition bloc before the May 12 vote, something which will make it easier for Kocharian and his political allies to retain control of the National Assembly. Orinats Yerkir, a big opposition party led by former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, officially decided not to join any electoral blocs last week. Another opposition heavyweight, Artashes Geghamian, and his National Unity Party will likely follow suit.