YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and Soviet-era leader Karen Demirchian on Tuesday put their final seal on an alliance that is expected to take center stage in the May parliamentary elections. The two leaders pledged long-term cooperation hours before applying for the registration of the Miasnutyun (Unity) bloc uniting their two respective parties.
The anticipated announcement was made at a joint meeting of the ruling bodies of Sargsyan’s Republican Party and Demirchian’s People’s Party. The parties said in a joint statement that Miasnutyun will strive to get Armenia out of the "socio-economic crisis" and promote "mutual tolerance and trust" in political life. The document called for urgent measures to overcome the "danger of an intensifying [economic] polarization" in Armenia.
Underlying the bloc’s strength will be the Republicans’ control of most government bodies in Armenia and the former Communist leader’s high popularity. Many impoverished Armenia’s want Demirchian back to power in the hope he will restore the living standards they enjoyed in Soviet times.
Sargsyan–who is one of the country’s most powerful leaders–said Miasnutyun is a "genuine alliance" reflecting the two parties’ ultimate goals. He said it was not set up for a "single political action," and will lead Armenia "from a turning point to progress." The bloc’s statement described the event as a "first step toward a lasting cooperation."
Sargsyan also said the Republican and People’s parties would have had the best chances of winning the elections even without joining forces. According to him–they got together in the interests of "national unity" and stability.
The statement further said the freedom and fairness of the legislative elections will be "important for Armenia’s future." Opposition parties have blamed Sargsyan and his loyalists for the vote manipulation reported during the elections held in Armenia’since 1995. Despite Sargsyan’s and President Robert Kocharian’s repeated assurance–most of them remain skeptical about the prospect that the elections will prove to be democratic.
Demirchian will top Miasnutyun’s list of candidates for the proportional system–followed by Sargsyan. The alliance has yet to agree on naming candidates for the more important single-mandate constituencies.