Manoukian Says Demirchian Declined Election Alliance Offer

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The political party of Armenia’s Soviet-era leader Karen Demirchian has turned down an offer to form an electoral alliance with another leading opposition group–National Democratic Union–party chairman Vazgen Manoukian said on Wednesday.

"I proposed him to participate in the [upcoming] elections with joint forces and joint rallies. But Mr. Demirchian and his party appear to have disagreed," Manoukian told students at Yerevan State University.

Demirchian’s center-left People’s Party of Armenia and the center-right NDU will be among the main players contesting the polls slated for May 30. The former Communist boss did unexpectedly well in last year’s presidential election–grabbing the second place and knocking Manoukian out of the race after the first round.

Manoukian–who was Armenia’s first post-Communist prime minister in 1990-91–said he still believes Demirchian’s surprise return to politics was orchestrated by the authorities to minimize his own chances of election. He said the same scenario will be used this time as well.

The NDU leader also ruled out any blocs with Paruyr Hayrikian’s Self-Determination Union.

"We have already discussed and abandoned the idea," he said–drawing cheers from the audience of several hundred students. A major ally of President Robert Kocharian–Hayrikian had signaled that he may not be averse to having a common slate with the NDU–which is in strong opposition to the government.

Manoukian further noted that the absence of opposition alliances will make it easier for the authorities to manipulate the elections. "We all know that the elections won’t be fair. But we will welcome them if they mean even one step forward [from the past elections]," he said.

Manoukian again singled out the powerful Defense Minister Vazgen Sagsyan–whom many opposition parties hold responsible for recent years’ elections. "By interfering in politics in 1996 and 1998–Vazgen Sagsyan took destructive actions for the future of our people," Manoukian claimed.

Kocharian and Sagsyan have repeatedly said they will do their best to guarantee the freedom and fairness of the elections–the dominant issue in Armenian politics.

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