Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has announced his withdrawal from one of the forthcoming parliamentary election races in which he would be running against another oppositionist.
In doing so, the founding leader of the parliamentary Heritage party called for a broader cooperation effort among different opposition groups when it comes to single-mandate constituencies in which 41 of the 131 seats of Armenia’s National Assembly will be contested in the May 6 vote.
After the deadline for the submission of nominations last Thursday it emerged that both Hovannisian and Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken newspaper editor and senior figure of the much bigger opposition alliance, Armenian National Congress (HAK), were among the candidates in Yerevan’s single-seat district No. 7. The constituency covering much of Yerevan’s western Malatia-Sebastia administrative district is represented in the current National Assembly by Samvel Aleksanian, an affluent businessman backed by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia seeking another reelection.
Pashinian applied for registration as a candidate in that district before the announcement of Hovannisian’s candidacy. Some HAK activists rushed to accuse the Heritage leader of deliberately splitting the opposition vote in an area long regarded as Aleksanian’s fiefdom.
The Heritage leader dismissed the speculation, suggesting that he had no knowledge of the HAK’s nomination plans. Announcing his readiness to withdraw from the race in favor of Pashinian, Hovannisian, at the same time, called for a broader cooperation among the opposition groups in regards to the parliament seats that are contested in single-mandate constituencies.
Hovannisian’s Heritage party and other leading opposition forces have nominated dozens of candidates in many of the constituencies. Some of them will compete against each other and thus are likely to make it easier for pro-government candidates to win the elections.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Hovannisian said his party had offered to the HAK and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the other current parliamentary minority party, to agree on supporting single opposition candidates in single-seat constituencies.
The offer, which, Hovannisian said, was turned down by the HAK and called untimely by Dashnaktsutyun, was, in particular, that they jointly support HAK candidates in 21 of the districts, while in seven and 13 districts, respectively, the joint opposition candidates would be Heritage and Dashnaktsutyun nominees.
Speaking at a press conference later on Monday, the HAK’s Pashinian said Hovannisian’s suggestion that the HAK withdraw from five single-member district races in exchange for his withdrawal from district N7 only was unacceptable. He described that offer as ‘illogical’ and said, therefore, it could not have become a subject for discussion or provided grounds for negotiations.
Earlier this year, the HAK, Heritage and Dashnaktsutyun unsuccessfully pushed for scrapping single-mandate constituency votes, insisting that the likelihood of massive vote rigging would decrease dramatically if the parliamentary elections in Armenia were held only under the system of proportional representation.