ARMENIA OPPOSITION LEADER TO CONTEST CAPITAL VOTE
March 16 2009
YEREVAN, March 16 (Reuters) – Armenia’s opposition said on Monday
it would use May mayoral polls in the capital Yerevan to challenge
the national power of the president it says rigged his election to
office last year.
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan is standing for mayor in what
his Armenian National Congress (ANC) says amounts to a second round
of the polls won by President Serzh Sarksyan.
More than 10,000 opposition supporters rallied in the capital of the
impoverished former Soviet republic on March 1 to mark the anniversary
of the election and commemorate 10 opposition activists who died in
"Yerevan has a significant weight in the political and economic life
of our country, and therefore the election of the mayor of the capital
should be seen as a key stage of the restoration of the constitutional
order," said the ANC in a statement on its website.
Armenia’s leaders, who maintain close links with Moscow while pursuing
ties with NATO, say they want to build a European-style democracy
and have won Western praise for allowing contested elections.
ANC’s central coordinator Levon Zurabyan presented Ter-Petrosyan’s
campaign for mayor of Yerevan as a first step to unseating
Sarksyan. "It will be .. a struggle against the monolithic system of
criminals and oligarchs," Zurabyan said.
Ter-Petrosyan became Armenia’s first president with the 1991 collapse
of the Soviet Union. He stepped down in 1998 over concession he had
backed in an attempt to end a dispute with neighbouring Azerbaijan
over the enclave of Nagorno Karabakh.
Ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan fought a war to take
control of the mountainous region that left 30,000 dead by the time
of a 1994 ceasefire.
On Feb. 25 the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Armenia of
conducting "politically motivated" trials while ignoring evidence of
excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees.
Armenia has been hard hit by the global economic slowdown and its
disputes with Azerbaijan and larger neighbour Turkey. (Reporting by
Hasmik Lazarian; writing by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Ralph Boulton)