Heritage Party Leader Reveals Objections to Election Pullout

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian said on Friday that his Heritage party decided not to contest next month’s mayoral elections in Yerevan over his objections.

Heritage’s governing board made the decision late last month after the failure of its negotiations with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress over the formation of an electoral alliance.

The two opposition forces disagreed on who should top their list of candidates in the May 31 elections of a municipal council and thus be their single candidate for the post of Yerevan mayor. Armenian National Congress nominated Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy, while Heritage insisted initially that the list should be topped by one of its own leaders.

The Heritage board said the only opposition party represented in Armenia’s parliament will rather pull out of the mayoral race than split the hitherto united opposition. But it only implicitly urged supporters to vote for Ter-Petrosian’s party.

Hovannisian, who founded Heritage in 2002 and remains its top leader, revealed that he stood for the party’s participation in the polls but that most members of the board thought otherwise. “In any case, I respect the board’s decision,” he told a news conference. “But I don’t always agree with its decision and I think that the participation [in the elections] would be right.”

Hovannisian dismissed speculation that he dodged responsibility for these and other key issues facing the party. He said the fact that he found himself in minority and did not impose his will on the Heritage board only proved his and his party’s commitment to democratic principles.

The U.S.-born politician, who had served as Armenia’s first foreign minister in the Ter-Petrosian administration, also reaffirmed Heritage’s intention to strive for the proper conduct of the May 31 polls. As a parliamentary force, Heritage is legally entitled to controlling one of the nine seats in Armenia’s election commissions.

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