Armenia’s leading opposition groups continued to negotiate on Monday on the possibility of joining forces ahead of next February’s presidential election.
Leaders of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) discussed their participation in the vote amid separate talks held by representatives of the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Free Democrats parties.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, spoke of “common positions” on the political situation in Armenia after the meeting with his Dashnaktsutyun counterparts. “We must do everything to be able to break up the existing monstrous vote-rigging machine,” he told journalists. “This is what the Congress is negotiating on with other political forces. This is where the Congress sees issues in the context of the presidential elections.”
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, cautioned that his party and the HAK are still divided over some “contentious” issues. He refused to specify them, citing the need “not to damage the reaching of further agreements.”
Asked about the possibility of the two forces supporting the same presidential candidate, Zurabian said, “We have many similar approaches. The most important of them is the realization that something must be radically changed in the country.” Their “coordinated actions” in the presidential race are therefore possible, he said.
Rustamian indicated in that regard that Dashnaktsutyun support for an opposition candidate is contingent on acceptance of its pre-election political agenda unveiled earlier this month. The 7-point document calls for Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic, the holding of parliamentary elections only under the proportional representation system, independence of the national judicial system and separation of big business from government.
“If we don’t agree on those key principles, we see no point in even talking about a joint candidate,” explained Rustamian. “What matters to us is what that candidate should do and that must be ascertained today.”
The BHK, which boasts the second largest parliamentary faction, also prioritizes sweeping curbs on presidential powers and legislative elections held only on the party list basis. The party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian began consultations with other major political players last week in an effort to win their support for such reforms.
“There is serious common ground on various issues,” Naira Zohrabian, senior BHK figure, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday. “There is a real possibility of forming a very serious political agenda in the run-up to the elections.”
But Zohrabian insisted that the BHK is not discussing concrete presidential candidacies yet.
Tsarukian’s party, which pulled out of Armenia’s governing coalition in June, has still not officially confirmed that it will challenge President Serzh Sarkisian in the upcoming election. The HAK and Dashnaktsutyun, which have more modest presence in the National Assembly, have likewise not clarified their electoral plans yet.