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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05YEREVAN136 2005-01-26 13:18:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

NEW "PRO-WESTERN" OPPOSITION BLOC A POTENTIAL

Tags:   PGOV PREL AM 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000136 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CACEN, INR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL AM
SUBJECT: NEW "PRO-WESTERN" OPPOSITION BLOC A POTENTIAL
PLAYER?

Classified By: DCM A.F. Godfrey for reasons 1.4 (b,d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Armenian political elites continue to speculate on
the implications of the recently announced union of
opposition figures Aram Sargsyan, Raffi Hovannisian, and
Hovhannes Hovhannisian. The new alliance, painting itself as
"the most western-leaning" in Armenia, has stated that its
principle goal will be to "oust" Kocharian from power and
offer an alternative foreign policy structure that moves the
country away from its "Russia-centered" foreign policy.
Opposition Justice Bloc leader Stepan Demirchian criticized
the initiative, stating that smaller units within the Justice
Bloc would only weaken the opposition's strength and could
lead to potential fissures. While at present more of a
threat to the opposition than to the Kocharian
administration, the news of the new political formation
indicates that there is some movement within Armenia's
opposition. Even if the opposition survives this latest
internal power shift, it is still unlikely that they will
pose a serious threat to Kocharian in the near future. End
Summary.



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THREE (SOMEWHAT) BIG FISH JOIN FORCES


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2. (SBU) Opposition figures Aram Sargsyan, Raffi Hovannisian,
and Hovhannes Hovhannisian have confirmed, via press
statements and public interviews, their intentions to
formally establish a "western-leaning" opposition alliance
within the next few months. Two of the stated of goals of
the alliance include ousting Kocharian and creating an
alternative "pro-Europe and pro-NATO" political movement to
counter Armenia's current foreign policy framework that the
group considers excessively beholden to Russian influence.
The most radical opposition group, the Republic party (led by
former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan), has spearheaded the
talks with two smaller opposition groups led by former
Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian and former MP Hovhannes
Hovhannisian. While all were particularly active during the
presidential and parliamentary elections of 2003, the
Republic Party has maintained the highest profile during
opposition activities of the past year. The Republic Party
was noticeably absent from a January 21 opposition leadership
"summit," fueling speculation that the Justice Bloc's
decision-making structure. News of their union is the most
substantial headline to come out of the opposition camp in
the last few months.



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DEMIRCHIAN SEES SUB-BLOC AS POTENTIAL THREAT


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3. (C) Opposition Justice bloc leader Stepan Demirchian has
criticized his opposition colleagues on their announced
intentions to join forces. (Comment: We agree with
observers from other diplomatic missions who believe that
Demirchian, who reportedly engaged in initial discussions
about the new bloc, fears he will lose his status as
Armenia's leading opposition politician once the three
re-emerge as a united front. End Comment.) Sargsyan, in his
turn, has stepped-up his criticism of Demirchian's handling
of the spring 2004 opposition rallies. The dialogue on
between Demirchian and the new political alliance's leaders
has stopped short, however, of threatening to pull-out of the
Justice Bloc or of expelling the new political formation's
leaders once they solidify their alliance.



4. (C) Meanwhile, the Justice Bloc surprised critics by
announcing a meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Arthur
Baghdasaryan to discuss a compromise agreement on
constitutional amendments. According to the announcement,
the opposition's proposed draft constitution would give the
National Assembly authority to approve candidates for Prime
Minister, limit the Prime Minister's controversial authority
to appoint and sack judges and would make the mayor of
Yerevan an elected official. Speaker Baghdasaryan told the
opposition he would discuss the offer with fellow majority
leaders within ten days. We believe it is still too early to
determine how deep support within the opposition runs for
this initiative or whether it was merely an attempt by
Demirchian to get the opposition back into the headlines.
Either way, we view it is the most substantive proposal to
come from Demirchian's office since the April 2004 political
rallies and a welcome injection of real discourse about
government reform.



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BRINGING ANM BACK INTO THE FOLD


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5. (C) Sargsyan is reportedly negotiating with high-level
leaders of the former ruling Armenian National Movement (ANM)
party of ex-President Levon Ter-Petrossian to solicit their
support for the alliance. All three leaders have close ties
to ANM politics although they have downplayed formal mention
of the party in public. Rumors of ANM's possible engagement
were authenticated recently when Sargsyan's chief aide,
Albert Bazeyan, announced his resignation from the Republic
Party in protest over ANM's possible role in the new
alliance. Davit Shahnazarian, National Security Advisor
under Ter-Petrossian and prominent figure among a portion of
former ANM party members, downplayed the rumored engagement
of ANM. He told us in private that the ANM would not join
the new political alliance and predicted it would fizzle for
"lack of a genuine leader."



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COMMENT


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6. (C) The new alliance, if properly managed, could be the
most viable forum for political figures close to ex-President
Ter-Petrossian (namely Raffi Hovannisian and his supporters)
and some of the rank-and-file Armenian National Movement
(ANM) members to re-enter the political scene and re-gain
lost territory. Given Raffi Hovannisian's track record of
joining and then departing coalitions, however, it is still
too early to predict whether or not he will remain in the
group long enough to be the new alliance's potential poster
child in any upcoming nationwide campaign. While at present
the alliance is potentially more of a threat to the
opposition than to the Kocharian administration, the news of
the emerging alliance indicates that there is some movement
within Armenia's opposition. Even if the opposition survives
this latest internal power shift, it is still unlikely that
they will pose a serious threat to Kocharian in the near
future.
EVANS