Opposition Leader Gives Up Presidential Bid

Karlen Aslanian
Aram Sarkisian, an opposition leader until recently allied with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, announced on Friday that he will not run in Armenia’s upcoming presidential election because of what he called popular apathy.

“I hope that you will not consider my not nominating my candidacy the consequence of a lack of will or message,” he told hundreds of members of his Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party holding a congress in Yerevan. “I also want to apologize to our party members and sympathizers who have thought otherwise and tried to persuade me to run.”

The announcement led the party to decide that it will not officially support any candidate in the ballot scheduled for February 18.

Sarkisian said last month that he could join the presidential race if he sees enough public support for his candidacy.

“That hasn’t happened,” the Hanrapetutyun leader told journalists after his speech. “I am sorry to admit that I toured most provinces [recently] and did not see the kind of enthusiasm that has existed before.”

“I was wrong to think that in the run-up to the presidential elections the political life will become more active and that it will be possible to mobilize the society. The society has become indifferent,” he said.

Hanrapetutyun was a key member of Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance until May. It quit the opposition bloc after growing differences with the ex-president and members of his entourage.

In particular, Hanrapetutyun opposed strategic cooperation between the HAK and Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), which was favored by Ter-Petrosian. Some Ter-Petrosian loyalists denounced Hanrapetutyun’s pullout, implicitly accusing Sarkisian’s party of cutting secret deals with the government.

The Hanrapetutyun convention was attended by several other opposition politicians who left the HAK this year as well as two dissident HAK figures that are still formally affiliated with Ter-Petrosian’s bloc. One of them, Hrant Bagratian, said on Thursday he would like to nominate his presidential candidacy if Ter-Petrosian decides not to run for president.