Ter Petrosyan Rallies Allies for Elections

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Levon Ter-Petrosyan–Armenia’s reclusive former president–is understood to be pressing his divided loyalists to join forces to contest the approaching elections–showing first signs of political activity since his resignation four years ago.

The Armenian National Movement–the former ruling party of which he is the unofficial leader–is in talks with several other pro-Ter-Petrosyan groups on the possibility of fielding joint candidates for the next local–parliamentaryand possibly presidential elections. The renewed effort to unite the center-right opposition came "at the former president’s suggestion," a senior ANM source told RFE/RL on Thursday.

The small parties courted by the ANM had split from the latter at various times but now appear ready to cooperate with its leadership. They are still divided over what concrete form that cooperation should take through.

The source said most of them have rejected the ANM offer to reunite into a single political party.

Vigen Khachatrian–whose Liberal Democratic Party supports such option–confirmed the information. "As far as the creation of a new party is concerned–I am not an optimist because I see that people still find it hard to subordinate their political ambitions to our common goal," he said.

"More feasible is the creation of an [electoral] bloc," said Ara Sahakian of the Armat organization uniting veteran ANM figures who fell out with the party’s current leadership three years ago. Armat is against the formal merger of the pro-Ter-Petrosyan forces–which are bitterly opposed to President Robert Kocharian.

Their leaders admit that Ter-Petrosyan’s possible comeback could serve as a powerful catalyst for the reunification of his allies. "It is obvious that for all of us there is one indisputable authority: Levon Ter-Petrosyan," Khachatrian said.

Sources said some of those parties would like the 52-year-old ex-president to be their common candidate in the next presidential elections due in a year’s time. But Ter-Petrosyan–who governed Armenia from 1991 to 1998–has so far given no indications about his political intentions. He has had virtually no contacts with the media ever since being forced to step down by his key cabinet members led by Kocharian–the prime minister at the time.

The information about Ter-Petrosyan’s involvement in the talks between the ANM and its splinter groups offers a rare glimpse of his current thinking.

None of the Ter-Petrosyan allies–discredited by the former authorities’ poor economic track record–is represented in the current parliament. The ANM fared extremely poorly in the 1999 parliamentary elections while most of the other parties chose to boycott the polls.

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