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Armenian Opposition Still Lacking Interest In Local Polls

RFE/RL -- Armenian opposition parties have traditionally shown little interest in local elections, and there are no signs that this situation will change anytime soon.

Most of the country’s leading opposition forces are ignoring upcoming elections of local self-government bodies that will be held in 24 villages. They are likewise likely to boycott the next nationwide local polls due in early 2012.

By contrast, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has official candidates in about half of the villages that will elect their chief executives and local councils later this month. Nine of those candidates are running unopposed, highlighting the HHK’s grip on most central and local government bodies in Armenia.

According to Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK member, the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian controls 565 of the country’s 915 cities, towns and villages. “We are involved in virtually all communities,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday.

The HHK’s main junior partner in the governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), runs 80 or so local communities and has fielded only three village mayor candidates this time around. “Our approach is to put the emphasis on quality, rather than quantity,” BHK spokesman Khachik Galstian told RFE/RL.

Galstian said the party will be far more active in the elections to be held in more than 800 urban and local communities ahead of Armenia’s May 2012 parliamentary elections.

HHK candidates prevailed in the last nationwide local polls held in 2008 and boycotted by the opposition.

The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has since contested only the May 2009 municipal elections in Yerevan, official results of which gave a landslide victory to the presidential party. The bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian rejected them as fraudulent and refused to take up its 13 seats in a 65-member city council in protest.

HAK spokesman Arman Musinian said it has fielded no candidates for the upcoming rural polls because they are “not solving political issues.” “Pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections remain the key thing for us,” he told RFE/RL.

The May elections are also effectively boycotted by the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. Its chairman, Armen Martirosian, said on Monday that none of the party members expressed a desire to run for village mayor.

The other major opposition group, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), is far less indifferent local governments. The nationalist party, which was in government until April 2009, current boasts some 50 rural community heads.

One of its senior members, Hrach Tadevosian, told RFE/RL that Dashnaktsutyun has nominated two candidates and endorsed six others for this month’s elections. “We will be one of the main contestant political forces who can expect some success,” he said.

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