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New Opposition Alliance ‘Finalized’

Raffi-hovhannissianRFE/RL -- Two opposition political parties on Friday appeared to have moved even closer to setting up an alliance that would be a major contender in Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.Leaders of the Free Democrats party said their month-long negotiations with the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party of former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian are nearing completion.“There is now nothing standing in the way of our alliance,” one of them, Ararat Zurabian, told reporters. “No issue prevents us from acting together.”

“There is only one technical issue: a meeting of Zharangutyun’s board will take place on March 18, after which things will be formalized and, I think, we will make an announcement about this,” he said.“The matter is solved by 99 percent, and unless there is a nuclear war or something like that, rest assured that this process will be brought to a logical conclusion,” he added, speaking after a pre-election congress of the Free Democrats that authorized the party leadership to join forces with other opposition groups.

Hovannisian, who delivered a speech at the congress, again sounded more cautious on the matter. But he did hint that the creation of Zharangutyun-Free Democrats alliance is imminent.“I think the process is open to free interpretation by various individuals and forces,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We should just be consistent, determined, single-minded, and I believe we will achieve that goal.”

Khachatur Kokobelian, the Free Democrats chairman, said he believes that the would-be bloc’s list of election candidates should be topped by the Zharangutyun leader.The Free Democrats party was set up last year by Zurabian, Kokobelian, former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian and other politicians who split from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). They are believed to have fallen out with HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.Incidentally, some top HAK figures, notably former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, attended the congress as guests along with leaders of other opposition groups.

By contrast, the Free Democrats sent no formal invitations to any of the three parties represented in Armenia’s government. “We have invited only those forces which we believe do not impede Armenia’s democratization,” explained Kokobelian.Still, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who joined the governing Prosperous Armenia Party last month, was present at the pre-election gathering. Arzumanian said Oskanian was invited in his personal capacity.

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. Original article: http://bit.ly/y05HnH

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