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Political Party in Armenia.

New Opposition Party To Join Armenian Parliamentary Race

Astghik Bedevian

A leader of a new opposition party set up by former prominent members of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) confirmed on Wednesday that it will participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian said the Free Democrats party has yet to decide whether to contest the May polls on its own or in an alliance with other opposition forces.

In any case, he said, it will not team up with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). But he did not rule out the possibility of Free Democrats joining forces with another major opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage).

Speaking at a news conference, Arzumanian made no mention of the HAK, with which he and the other leaders of the new party were affiliated until last year.

Two of them, Ararat Zurabian and Khachatur Kokobelian, used to head the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), a key party aligned in the HAK. They resigned from the HHSh leadership in June 2010, reportedly under pressure from HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian. Zurabian and Kokobelian were joined by dozens of other HHSh activists.

Arzumanian, for his part, managed Ter-Petrosian’s campaign for the February 2008 presidential election. Like many other opposition members, he was arrested in the wake of the disputed vote and spent more than a year in prison. He officially joined Free Democrats after the party’s founding congress in May 2011.

Arzumanian, who served as foreign minister from 1996-1998, reaffirmed his party’s strong support for the holding of the parliament elections only under the system of proportional representation, an idea advanced by the other opposition forces. He said the distribution of 41 of the 131 seats in the Armenian parliament in single-mandate constituencies, mandated by the existing Electoral Code, precludes opposition victory in the polls.

The oppositionist argued that virtually all of those constituencies were swept in the past by wealthy government-linked candidates through vote buying and manipulation.

President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which has a solid majority in the current National Assembly, has made clear that it will block relevant legal amendments that have been jointly drafted by Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun lawmakers. Artak Davtian, an HHK deputy, claimed on Wednesday a switch to a 100 percent party-list system requires a nationwide referendum that cannot be held before the May elections.