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Armenian Opposition To Shun Local Elections

President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia is fielding candidates in about half of the 24 villages being contested.
YEREVAN -- Most of Armenia's leading opposition parties will not participate in upcoming local elections, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has official candidates in about half of the 24 villages in which mayors and local councils will be elected later this month.

Hovannes Sahakian, a senior Republican Party member, said the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian controls 565 of the country's 915 cities, towns, and villages.

"We are involved in virtually all communities," he told RFE/RL.

The Republicans' main junior partner in the governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), runs about 80 local communities but has fielded only three village mayor candidates for these elections. BHK spokesman Khachik Galstian told RFE/RL that the party is emphasizing "quality rather than quantity."

Republican Party candidates prevailed in the last nationwide local polls held in 2008, which were boycotted by the opposition.

The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has since contested only the May 2009 municipal elections in Yerevan, the official results of which gave a landslide victory to the presidential party. The bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian rejected the poll as fraudulent and refused to take its seats in the city council in protest.

Armenian National Congress spokesman Arman Musinian told RFE/RL the party is running no candidates in the upcoming rural polls because they are "not solving political issues."

This month's elections are also being effectively boycotted by the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.

The other major opposition group, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), is more involved in local government than the other opposition parties. The nationalist party, which was a member of the country's government until April 2009, currently has about 50 village and town leaders.