Election Mathematics: Many into one won’t go as opposition parties spurn anti-government alliance

There are 71 days before the parliamentary elections and it is clear already that the numerous endeavors of the Armenian opposition to unite have failed.

Tomorrow, March 3rd, is the deadline for submitting lists of candidates for proportional representation seats to the Central Electoral Commission.

Separate proportional lists have already been submitted by the National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamyan, the People’s Party of Armenia of Stepan Demirchyan, the Republic Party of Aram Sargsyan, Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage Party as well as the Impeachment Alliance – the only coalition, formed by Petros Makeyan’s Democratic Fatherland and Mikayel Hayrapetyan’s Conservative parties.

All week, opposition parties were ardently negotiating and holding sessions of their political councils day and night to try to agree on whether to unite in an election coalition against the pro-government parties or to go it alone.

By Thursday no alliance had been formed, other than for the Impeachment platform, even though all the main parties have declared that unification would be the right decision.

The result is that a total of 14 opposition parties will be competing for votes against each other and the pro-government parties.

“I think going into the elections alone is a mistake if we take the real situation in Armenia into account. It’s a big tactical, ideological and civic mistake,” Raffi Hovannisian, leader of the Heritage Party, told journalists just a week ago.

Active negotiations took place in the past week between the Heritage, Republic and National Democratic Union parties.

However, on Wednesday evening Vazgen Manukyan’s office informed ArmeniaNow that the National Democratic Union had decided not to participate in the election.

“The political situation in Armenia forces us to leave this dirty game,” Manukyan said.

At a seven-hour session of its political council on the same day, the party of Aram Sargsyan, brother of the assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, agreed that it would participate in the elections on its own.

Aram Sargsyan told ArmeniaNow last week that he would spare no effort to unite the opposition. He said: “I see [there are] serious forces who understand the importance of unification, who realize that the problem is not just gaining seats in the National Assembly.”

But Suren Surenyants, a member of the Republic Party’s political council, admitted this week to ArmeniaNow: “The negotiations failed because obviously there are parties in the opposition who depend on the authorities. At least we did our best to unite.”

Surenyants declined to say who had caused the negotiations to fail, adding that “clarification of the details would be black PR against the parties”.

Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage Party announced its list of candidates, which included the former Ombudsman Larisa Alaverdyan in second place. Anahit Bakhshyan, widow of the former deputy Speaker Yuri Bakhshyan, who was murdered in the October 1999 attack on Parliament, is also high on the Heritage Party’s list.

Political analyst Aghasi Yenokyan argues that the failure of the talks will ensure the success of the election scenario planned by President Robert Kocharyan.

“The opposition did not form a powerful alliance that would have given them an opportunity to bargain with the authorities. Going alone will disperse the opposition,” he says.

The National Unity Party submitted its proportionate list of 72 candidates, headed by party leader Artashes Geghamyan.

“We did not form any alliance because we are a dominant oppositional force and can take part in the election alone. I knew from the beginning that no normal alliance would be formed by the opposition,” Geghamyan told ArmeniaNow.

The idea of an Impeachment Alliance was put forward by the Alternative civil initiative formed by prominent members of the former ruling party, the Armenian National Movement. It gained momentum last week when the Republic and Heritage parties indicated that they might join.

But in practice they have not joined so far, while Stepan Demirchyan stated that his party would take part only if Geghamyan signed up.

According to the initiative, the Impeachment Alliance would present a single joint proportionate list united around one issue – the impeachment of President Kocharyan.

“The opposition has been saying for eight years that its main task is to oust Kocharyan from power; if they really want radical change and not just a few seats let them unite in Impeachment,” says Petros Makeyan, of the Democratic Fatherland Party.

However, even this idea failed to unite the opposition beyond the two small parties taking part in the list.

Many opposition representatives hope that at least one other issue may unite them – a fight against widely predicted vote-rigging and election fraud by the authorities.