The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) is unlikely to form an electoral alliance with other major opposition parties and is confident about winning seats in the next parliament, one of its leaders said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, representatives of two such parties, Zharangutyun (Heritage) and Free Democrats, revealed that they are discussing the possibility of setting up a bloc for the May parliamentary elections.
Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing Bureau, said the party is “inclined” to contest the elections with its own list of candidates. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), he also expressed confidence that it will clear the 5 percent legal vote threshold for being represented in the National Assembly through the system of proportional representation.
Dashnaktsutyun, which was a member of Armenia’s governing coalition until 2009, won 16 seats in the 131-member assembly in the last polls held in May 2007. But it fared poorly in subsequent major elections, calling into question its continued presence in the parliament.
“I realize that the opposition field has narrowed and become more difficult,” said Markarian. Still, he suggested that not only Dashnaktsutyun but also Zharangutyun and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) will have deputies in the next National Assembly.
The HAK is believed to be the country’s most popular and influential opposition group.
A group of prominent HAK figures last year split from the bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and formed a new party called Free Democrats. One of its leaders, former Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, said on Thursday that Free Democrats and Zharangutyun are now considering joining forces.
“We are confident that we will be united in trying to prevent falsifications and deploying common observers and proxies,” Arzumanian said. “But whether or not that will be an electoral bloc with a single list of candidates is still too early to say.”
“Those discussions are continuing,” he added during a public discussion at the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank headed by another former foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian.
Armen Martirosian, a Zharangutyun leader, confirmed the information. “Such meetings [with Free Democrats] are indeed taking place,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But those discussions are not yet official negotiations.”
Both Arzumanian and Markarian dismissed government pledges to ensure the proper conduct of the upcoming elections. The Dashnaktsutyun leader said the authorities can only be forced to hold a free and fair ballot. “If political forces manage to mobilize enough people who will fight on election day and know how to overcome barriers, we can go very far,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the previous elections proved something very bad to us,” Markarian said, complaining that opposition forces lacked enough committed activists who could not be bribed or bullied by pro-government forces.
Arzumanian seemed more optimistic in that regard. “The Electoral Code gives us many possibilities of influencing the process,” he said. “If there is high turnout and well-organized observers, then we can minimize, if not rule out, the scale of falsifications. All those parties that are interested in free and fair elections have a lot to do in that area.”
Arzumanian, who managed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential election campaign, also made the point that recent years’ rapid spread of online media and social networks in Armenia will make vote rigging harder. “The significance of the government’s grip on the electronic media is eroding,” he said.