Three more political parties seen as major contenders in Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections have unveiled their lists of candidates including well-known individuals that were not affiliated with them until recently.
The Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir parties, two junior partners in President Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalition, as well as the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) have expressed confidence about their ability to win strong presence in the next National Assembly.
The BHK has particularly ambitious goals, looking to upgrade its current status as the country’s second most important governing party. Not surprisingly, its electoral list partly publicized on Wednesday is headed by its leader Gagik Tsarukian.
Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who joined the party less than a month ago is second on the list, followed by Urban Development Minister Vartan Vartanian and two businessmen, Gurgen Arsenian and Samvel Balasanian. The latter is also a deputy speaker of the outgoing National Assembly.
Arsenian, who also leads a much smaller party allied to the BHK, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Tsarukian’s political team will be seeking to win a majority of seats in the next parliament.
Hmayak Hovannisian, a well-known politician and pundit also running for the parliament on the BHK ticket, confirmed this. Hovannisian said the BHK is the only election contender capable of ending what he called a “political monopoly” enjoyed by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
By contrast, Orinats Yerkir is expected to struggle to have even a handful of deputies in the new parliament. The party led by Artur Baghdasarian needs to garner at least 5 percent of the vote for that purpose.
Still, Baghdasarian sounded confident about his party’s chances late on Tuesday as he unveiled its electoral slate at an Orinats Yerkir reception attended by President Sarkisian. Baghdasarian, who has served as secretary of the presidential National Security Council since 2008, occupies the top spot on the list, followed the party’s deputy chairwoman, Heghine Bisharian, Emergency Situations Minister Armen Yeritsian and Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian.
Sarkisian heaped praise on Orinats Yeritsian in a speech at the reception marking the 15th anniversary of the party’s establishment. “You are reliable partners because in difficult times one can rely on you and overcome many difficulties together with you,” he said.
Dashnaktsutyun, which was part of Sarkisian’s coalition government until 2009, presented its list of election candidates on Wednesday. The list is topped by two leaders of the opposition party, Vahan Hovannisian and Armen Rustamian.
Also among Dashnaktsutyun’s top ten candidates are four businessmen. Their names are higher on the list than those of three incumbent Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers: Ara Nranian, Lilit Galstian and Ruzan Arakelian.
Three other, more famous members of the party’s current parliament faction were not included on the list at all. One of them, Hrayr Karapetian, is the chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security. Another deputy, Artur Aghabekian, is a retired army general who has served as deputy defense minister in the past.
“I think the most competitive and best list is ours,” Vahan Hovannisian told a news conference. “People who deserve to become deputies the most are on our list.”
Hovannisian said Dashnaktsutyun’s aim is to achieve “complete and radical regime change” as a result of the May 6 elections. He shrugged off Sarkisian’s pledges to carry out sweeping political and economic reforms if the ruling HHK wins the vote.
Dashnaktsutyun controls 16 seats in the current 131-member parliament, compared with 26 and 8 seats held by the BHK and Orinats Yerkir respectively.