Civil Contract, a political party that was formed a few years ago around outspoken government critic Nikol Pashinian, has signaled its readiness to discuss the possibility of forming one party with other opposition forces sharing the same or close ideology after admitting defeat in Armenia’s local elections earlier this month.
The party held its special convention on October 30 necessitated by the poor electoral showing in order to consider changes in its board. As a result, Sasun Mikayelian, a prominent Karabakh war veteran and former mayor of Hrazdan, was installed as chairman of Civil Contract’s board.
Civil Contract, which actively participated in the September 18 and October 2 elections to local government bodies in a number of provinces of Armenia, managed to have its representative elected mayor of a village in central Armenia as well as have several members elected to local councils. However, the party failed to secure representation in the city councils of Gyumri and Vanadzor, the second and third largest cities of Armenia.
Pashinian and his political team have not concealed their ambitions to have a strong showing in next year’s parliamentary elections and for that purpose have famously been pursuing volunteer supporters across Armenia to monitor ballots and prevent fraud at polling stations as the party’s proxies.
After the latest setbacks, however, the party appears to be revising its tactics, announcing its readiness for greater cooperation with other forces as well.
“We have no precondition here… We are ready to discuss with forces that share our ideology or are close to us by their ideology the possibility of becoming one party,” Pashinian said.
Representatives of a number of opposition parties attending the Civil Contract convention also advocated consolidation of opposition forces ahead of the next parliamentary elections due in April.
“If we want real changes, important becomes the issue of drawing a distinction between the real and fake oppositions. Look what the authorities are doing by reanimating so-called ‘non-governing’ forces, bringing in their clients, which will make it more difficult to defeat them,” said Aram Sargsian, the leader of the extra-parliamentary Hanrapetutyun party. “Therefore, I strongly believe that the number one task today is for the real opposition to unite.”
Opposition Armenian National Movement party board chairman Alexander Arzumanian and Democratic Homeland party chairman Petros Makelyan, who also attended the convention, also spoke in favor of the unification of “real” opposition forces.
Pashinian and the above-mentioned three politicians once were part of the opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian who unsuccessfully challenged then Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian in the 2008 presidential election.
They subsequently left the bloc, called Armenian National Congress (HAK), over policy differences.
The HAK, which reorganized itself into a party a few years ago, issued a statement last week, striking an optimistic note about the prospect of achieving a democratic change as a result of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The party, which also fared poorly in the recent local elections dismissed by it as undemocratic, also declared that it was ready to cooperate with all parties and groups “seeking a regime change and the establishment of a legitimate government and democracy in Armenia through elections.”
Asked whether Civil Contract could cooperate also with the HAK, Pashinian said: “We are ready to participate in discussions with our ideas, to talk about problems, means of solving them and objectives. And we are ready to discuss formats of further cooperation with all forces with which we will have something in common in these issues.”