Former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, one of the main opposition candidates in Armenia’s presidential election, looks set to be endorsed by an opposition party represented in parliament.
Alexander Arzumanian, a leader of the Free Democrats party, said on Friday that it agrees with Bagratian’s “liberal” agenda” and will likely urge supporters to vote for him in the February 18 election.
“Right now we are examining candidates’ programs,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “So far Hrant Bagratian is the only opposition candidate to have come up with a clear program which is liberal and very congruent with our ideology.”
“As things stand now, the ideas that are proposed by Hrant Bagratian’s team are dearer to our hearts,” he said.
Arzumanian and other senior Liberal Democrats are former members of Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK). They split from the opposition alliance and set up their own party in 2011 following growing differences with the HAK leadership.
Bagratian and his Azatutyun (Freedom) party formally remain part of the HAK. However, Bagratian froze that affiliation last month amid serious disagreements with Ter-Petrosian. The ex-premier underlined that discord with his decision to run for president on his own, without the HAK’s backing. Ter-Petrosian’s bloc decided to effectively boycott the ballot.
The Freed Democrats are represented in the Armenian parliament by Arzumanian and another party leader, Khachatur Kokobelian. They won those seats last year in an electoral alliance with the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party of Raffi Hovannisian, another major opposition presidential candidate. The alliance fell apart last month.
Arzumanian implied that the Freed Democrats will not support Hovannisian’s presidential bid. In particular, he cited “nationalist elements” in the Zharangutyun leader’s election discourse which he said are unacceptable to his party.
Hovannisian, meanwhile, on Friday again urged Armenians to turn out in large numbers for next month’s election, saying that he will defeat President Serzh Sarkisian in that case. “If they stay at home, let them not complain and curse the darkness,” he told a news conference.
Hovannisian also declared that if elected president he will refuse to receive his state salary out of solidarity with impoverished citizens.
The U.S.-born politician claimed to have earned no revenue last year in his income declaration filed with the Central Election Commission (CEC). He said Friday that he lives off financial assistance from his family. “This underlines the reality that I am not dependent on anyone and own no businesses,” he said.