By Hovannes Shoghikian
A top aide to Stepan Demirchian admitted on Wednesday that disagreements over who should run for president next year were a key reason why he refused to form an electoral alliance with several other opposition leaders.
Demirchian’s talks with them broke down late last month due to a number of preconditions that were reportedly set by President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger during the 2003 presidential ballot. According to opposition sources cited by the media, the chairman of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) demanded that the would-be opposition bloc endorse his 2008 presidential run.
Grigor Harutiunian, the number two figure in the HZhK, essentially confirmed this. “I am stating officially that no specific names were discussed in connection with 2008,” he told reporters. “Stepan Demirchian’s approaches were as follows: the 2007 parliamentary elections will be followed by the presidential election of 2008, and it would be illogical if leaders making up the alliance contest the presidential election separately.”
Harutiunian insisted that this did not constitute an explicit demand to nominate Demirchian for the presidency. Still, the would-be bloc’s single presidential candidate would presumably be the man topping the list of its candidates for the May 12 parliamentary elections. Demirchian has made no secret of his desire to occupy the top spot, something which did not sit well with his opposition partners who also plan presidential runs. At least one of them, Vazgen Manukian, wanted the bloc to have a collective leadership.
Harutiunian acknowledged that the HZhK also demanded that at least half of the bloc’s electoral slate be reserved for members of his party, another reason why the opposition deal fell through. “We could have demanded more than 50 percent,” he said. “During all these years the HZhK has strengthened its structures, while others have not. Why should it have been otherwise?”
Manukian’s National Democratic Union (AZhM) and three other parties failed to cut a deal even without the HZhK, reportedly for similar reasons. The opposition discord is expected to play into the hands of Kocharian and his loyalists on election day.
(Photolur photo: Stepan Demirchian.)