Three Armenian opposition parties critical of Russia have agreed to join forces and challenge the government in the parliamentary elections slated for April.
One of them, Hanrapetutyun (Republic), was the first to announce their “explicit understandings on cooperation” late on Thursday.“The three parties will make a joint statement on December 12,” it said.
The two other parties are Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract and Edmon Marukian’s Bright Armenia. Both relatively young men hold seats in Armenia’s parliament. They traded bitter recriminations ahead of a recent municipal election in Vanadzor, the capital of the northern Lori province and the Bright Armenia stronghold.
Hanrapetutyun is a much older party led by Aram Sarkisian, a former prime minister. It was a key opposition force in the 2000s but has kept a low profile in recent years and is not represented in the current National Assembly.
Hanrapetutyun and Bright Armenia have a pro-Western orientation, while Civil Contract advocates a more neutral Armenian foreign policy. Still, Pashinian voted against Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union two years ago.
Marukian said on Friday that the three groups intend to form an electoral alliance. “Everything else -- the strategy, tactics, what we are going to do -- is still being discussed,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We will provide detailed information about that on December 12.”
Marukian said the planned bloc is open to other opposition forces, notably Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “I can confirm that there have been consultations with Zharangutyun as well, and I think that we are not yet done and changes are still possible,” he said.
So far the consultations appear to have not involved at least two other major opposition parties: former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) and former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s Hamakhmbum (Consolidation). Both parties, which support Armenia’s close ties with Russia, have called for opposition consolidation ahead of the April elections.
Hanrapetutyun’s Sarkisian indicated on Friday that he would not team up with any party which he considers pro-Russian.
Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which expects to win the elections, seemed unfazed by the looming opposition alliance. “The opposition has no chance to win the elections or fully unite,” said its spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov.
Sarkisian scoffed at the remark, saying that the HHK has clung to power through vote rigging and repression. “Things would have been much sadder if Sharmazanov had praised us,” said the veteran oppositionist.