Prime Minister and acting president Robert Kocharian yesterday declared his candidacy in the March 16 presidential election. The election was called after Levon Ter-Petrosian’s resignation from the presidency under pressure from Kocharian and the "force" ministers. Kocharian’s announcement means that he and his key supporters are confident of having found ways around the legal obstacles to his candidacy (see Monitor, February 9). Self-Determination Union leader Parvir Hairikian also entered the presidential race yesterday. Hairikian, whose candidacy had been expected, is seen by many as a founding father of the national movement in Soviet Armenia in the 1960s, and spent years in Soviet prison camps. Unlike some other Armenian nationalist leaders, Hairikian has consistently defended democratic principles against the authoritarianism practiced since 1994 by Ter-Petrosian and his allies, some of whom are now flanking Kocharian.
Also yesterday, the government reinstated the legal status of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun, which had been suspended in December 1994. The Justice Ministry released some Dashnaks convicted in recent political trials, including the highly popular Vahan Hovanissian and Hrant Margarian. Hovanissian is considered a potential presidential candidate. ARF, the oldest Armenian party, remains highly influential in the country and in the diaspora. While suspended in Armenia, the ARF continued operating freely in Karabakh where Kocharian was president. The new leaders apparently seek to establish the widest possible political consensus in the wake of their takeover, as they prepare to toughen Armenia’s negotiating position on the Karabakh conflict. (Noyan-Tapan, Snark, Respublika Armeniia, February 9)
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