Paruyr Hayrikian, a prominent Soviet-era dissident who played a major role in Armenian politics in the 1990s, is making a political comeback with his decision to run in next month’s presidential election.
Hayrikian, 63, is one of seven individuals, including President Serzh Sarkisian and opposition heavyweights Raffi Hovannisian and Hrant Bagratian, who have filed for official registration as presidential candidates. Sarkisian is widely tipped to win a second term in the election scheduled for February 18.
Hayrikian likewise asserted on Monday that the incumbent’s reelection is a forgone conclusion. “There will be no constitutional regime change in Armenia through these elections because unfortunately power … illegally and legally belongs to Serzh Sarkisian and his associates subordinate to him,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
Hayrikian, who repeatedly ran for president in the 1990s, said he decided to join the 2013 presidential race in order to capitalize on freedom of speech which he believes is now generally respected by the government for the first time in Armenia’s history.
“We can say that we are heading to the presidential elections in a relative atmosphere of freedom of speech,” he said. “There have already been some minor violations. But I still consider the existing situation an achievement.”
“That was not a manifestation of the government’s good will. I do realize that that is also the result of an oversight over the fulfillment of Armenia’s international obligations,” added the ex-dissident.
Hayrikian, who leads a small party called the National Self-Determination Union, said he will use “the power of words” in the election campaign to highlight and fight against various government abuses in Armenia. He claimed that can he thus influence even President Sarkisian. “Today he listens to my words with respect but does nothing about them,” he said.
Hayrikian spent 17 years in Soviet labor camps for campaigning for Armenia’s independence before being expelled from the country and stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1988. He was allowed to return to Armenia from the United States in 1991, one year after being elected a member of the first post-Communist Armenian parliament in absentia.
Hayrikian was an opposition candidate in presidential elections held in 1991, 1996 and 1998. His AIM party won a handful of parliament seats in legislative elections held in 1995. It has not been represented in the National Assembly since 1999.