An opposition alliance headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian claimed to be gaining growing voter support on Wednesday as it rallied thousands of people in Yerevan four days before Armenia’s parliamentary elections.
Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the Congress-HZhK bloc, insisted that its main election campaign message, a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, is increasingly resonating with Armenians. The bloc is also proving its pro-government and opposition critics wrong, he said.
“They told us that we are committing a political suicide with our [Karabakh-related] program and that nobody will back us. Today we are demonstrating that we have not only preserved our supporters but have also expanded our electoral base,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) as the crowd marched through the city center.
“We are attracting new supporters every hour because people have realized that what we are proposing is the key to country’s development and salvation,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian, 72, has not participated in the Congress-HZhK’s election campaign gatherings. Zurabian attributed the ex-president’s absence from Wednesday’s rally to his “unpredictable” style of communicating with the electorate. He also said Ter-Petrosian has already influenced public opinion with his pre-election extensive interviews given to two major TV channels.
In those interviews, Ter-Petrosian reaffirmed his strong support for the Basic Principles of the Karabakh conflict’s resolution that were first put forward by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Madrid in 2007. He insisted that peace with Azerbaijan is vital for Armenia’s security and prosperity.
Ter-Petrosian also made clear that President Serzh Sarkisian can count on the Congress-HZhK’s backing if he presses ahead with the proposed settlement. This led to renewed speculation by some commentators that Sarkisian, whose government claims to largely support the Basic Principles, will help Ter-Petrosian’s bloc win at least 7 percent of the vote needed for having seats in Armenia’s new parliament. Ter-Petrosian aides have dismissed that speculation.
Zurabian argued that under the framework accord drafted by the three mediating powers the Armenian side would retain control over Karabakh and would only have to withdraw from districts surrounding the disputed territory.
“Vote for the Congress-HZhK alliance so that democracy is established in our country, so that peace is established around our country,” Zurabian told the crowd before it marched from Yerevan’s Liberty Square. “Vote for the opening of all roads and for our free trade with all countries of the world, including our neighbors.”
The opposition figure further declared that a set of opposition-backed amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code enacted last year will preclude serious fraud inside the polling stations on April 2. He said Armenians should therefore use this opportunity to “remove this corrupt regime” and “impose a dignified peace on Azerbaijan.”