Loyalist Repeats Ex-Leader’s Comeback Plans

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
Aug 17 2007

The leader of Armenia’s former ruling party reiterated on Friday that
ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian is ready to engage in the battle
for presidency early next year.

Ararat Zurabian, who chairs the Board of the Armenian Pan-National
Movement (HHSh), said that while Ter-Petrosian is certain to run
for president, he will expressly state his desire at the stage of

"I strongly believe that Levon Ter-Petrosian is determined to
participate in the political processes. It is certain that his
nomination as a presidential candidate will happen," he added.

Ter-Petrosian, who has avoided public appearances since resigning under
pressure in February 1998, reportedly traveled to Armenia’s northern
regions in recent weeks to hold meetings with local supporters. Despite
repeated statements by his loyalists about his plans to make a
presidential bid, the 62-year-old reclusive ex-leader has given no
indication yet that he is considering a political comeback.

According to the HHSh leader, active negotiations with other opposition
forces around a single presidential candidate are underway. He said
he held several meetings with opposition leaders and politicians
every day, including with Vazgen Manukian, who was Ter-Petrosian’s
main rival in the 1996 presidential election and claims to have been
deprived of a clear victory by the former regime.

Zurabian said that despite some personal disagreements that may exist
between the two politicians, the HHSh board has "contacts and normal
relations" with Manukian.

He described Manukian as a "very serious politician" who is capable
of gathering a certain team around himself ahead of next year’s
presidential election. "But unlike Levon Ter-Petrosian, he has no
chance to win the elections," Zurabian added.

Despite the ongoing negotiations, Zurabian does not think that
either the opposition or the authorities will eventually field single
candidates for the 2008 elections. But he said it is important for
the opposition to form an "alternative" center.

Zurabian expects that like it happened in the past the authorities
will have pseudo-candidates, who will be more outspoken about their
opposition rivals.

"I don’t think that [Prime Minister] Serzh Sarkisian can look into
Levon Ter-Petrosian’s eyes and say something against him. Naturally,
he should use pseudo-candidates for this purpose," Zurabian asserted.