By Anna Saghabalian
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian secured on Thursday the backing of yet another opposition party which urged Armenians to help him thwart a “reproduction” of the country’s present leadership in next week’s presidential election.
In a statement, the Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) of Aram Karapetian, an opposition politician known for his pro-Russian views, said it is joining the “popular movement” led by Ter-Petrosian in the hope of seeing “systemic changes” in Armenia. “Armenian society has found the courage to rise up and get rid of practices infringing on our national dignity, and the Nor Zhamanakner Party is naturally with the people,” it said.
The statement came two days Karapetian exhausted all legal possibilities of overturning the Armenian authorities’ refusal to register him as a presidential candidate. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said late last year that Karapetian failed to prove that he has permanently resided in Armenia for the past ten years, something which is required by the Armenian constitution. The outspoken oppositionist, who has spent much of the past 15 years in Moscow, unsuccessfully challenged that assertion in Armenian courts.
Nor Zhamanakner, which polled more than 3 percent of the vote in last May’s parliamentary elections, said the CEC’s refusal to register Karapetian dealt a “very serious blow to the legitimacy of the presidential elections.” This might explain why its statement only implicitly urged Armenians to vote for Ter-Petrosian.
“As you can see, we are not making a direct endorsement,” Karapetian told RFE/RL. He claimed that the authorities plan to rig the February 19 vote and that its outcome may well be decided on the streets of Yerevan.
Karapetian also said that he and his supporters will participate in Ter-Petrosian’s next Yerevan rally scheduled for Saturday. “We will be supporting the movement which aims to rid Armenia of its present authorities,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian’s presidential bid was already endorsed by nearly two dozen mostly small opposition parties. Only one of them, the Zharangutyun party of Raffi Hovannisian, is represented in Armenia’s parliament.