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Another Candidate Barred From Armenian By-Election

YEREVAN -- A former government minister who fled Armenia in 2004 has become the second opposition candidate disqualified from a parliament by-election in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Former Transport Minister Eduard Madatian, who along with jailed opposition figure Nikol Pashinian was among the most prominent of six people who intended to contest the January 10 election, was disqualified as a candidate on November 10.

The government's ban of his and Pashinian's candidacies has made the election unpredictable.

Under Armenian law, only citizens who have permanently resided in the country for the five years before an election are eligible to run for a seat in the National Assembly. The Armenian police's Department of Visas and Passports (OVIR) refused to certify Pashinian's five-year residency last week.

Lieutenant General Hovannes Hunanian, a deputy national police chief, said the OVIR has also refused to certify Madatian's residency requirement.

Madatian fled Armenia in late 2004 to avoid prosecution for allegedly masterminding an attempt on the life of then-President Robert Kocharian and other top officials. He returned in August 2008 after the criminal case against him was dropped.

Some media outlets reported recently that Madatian has the tacit backing of President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). But the HHK has not confirmed that.

The ruling party has yet to specify whether it will field or endorse a candidate for the by-election, which will be held in a central Yerevan district.