The recently established opposition political party led by Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian has declared a regime change as its main goal in the October 2 municipal elections in the country’s second and third largest cities, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
Visiting Vanadzor on Friday, Oskanian, the leader of the Unity party, said that in pursuing their goal they will also be prepared to cooperate with other opposition forces should they need additional votes to form a majority in municipal assemblies.
“Of course, if we don’t win an outright majority and will have to form a majority with others to install our mayor, we will be ready to cooperate with all political forces that are indeed in the opposition field and sincerely want changes,” he said.
Under the new Electoral Code adopted by Armenia’s National Assembly earlier this year, for the first time Gyumri and Vanadzor, where mainstream opposition parties and candidates traditionally fare well in parliamentary and presidential elections, will elect their mayors indirectly. Residents in these cities in the north of Armenia will vote for political parties to form municipal assemblies that will then elect a mayor from amongst their majority.
Unity, whose constituent assembly was held as recently as in June, has not concealed its ambitions to challenge President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia not only in local elections, but also in the next parliamentary elections due in 2017.
Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister throughout the 1998-2008 presidency of Robert Kocharian, is widely believed to maintain close links with the ex-president. But he himself insisted on several occasions that his party has “no connection whatsoever” with Kocharian.
The core of the Unity party consists of several former members of the Prosperous Armenia Party that left its parliamentary faction along with Oskanian following a 2015 government crackdown against its then leader Gagik Tsarukian. A number of other public figures, such as, for example, Armenia’s former ombudsman Karen Andreasian, are also with the Oskanian-led party.
“The society has long been disappointed with the existing political system that has taken shape over the years and made it impossible to create fair political and economic relationships,” the leading Unity party members declared in a joint statement earlier this year.
“We are making a bid to become a pivotal, rather than just another, political force,” they added.
Speaking in Vanadzor on Friday, Oskanian said that coming to power in two major cities is particularly important ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections.
“The opposition’s victory in these two major cities will mark the beginning of a process, which, I am sure, will eventually culminate in a change of power as a result of the 2017 parliamentary elections,” Oskanian underscored.
A number of other opposition parties, namely the Armenian National Congress led by former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, the Armenian Revival party led by former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, the newly established Civil Contract party of opposition MP Nikol Pashinian and others, are expected to challenge the ruling party in the municipal elections in Gyumri and Vanadzor.
The opposition Heritage party said earlier this month it will not contest local elections because of the prosecution of its three leading members on “fabricated” charges. It is still unclear, though, if this is the final decision of the party led by another former foreign minister, Raffi Hovannisian.
Heritage’s deputy chairman Armen Martirosian, one of the three party members who were released on bail pending trial on charges of organizing mass disturbances during a July 29 protest, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday that the matter will be discussed in the coming days.