the Central Election Committee registered 11 Presidential
candidates last Wednesday, former Minister of
Foreign Affairs Raffi Hovannisian was not on the
Last week a lower court ruled that Hovannisian
has not held Armenian citizenship the required
10 years for eligibility to run for President.
And, as expected, the court ruling has renewed
a long-standing debate over whether President
Robert Kocharyan, a citizen of Karabakh, has legitimate
claim to run the country.
"My decision to be a citizen of Armenia
and to live in my native country was significant
for me, and for all my life" said Hovannisian,
formerly a U.S. citizen who has claimed that he
applied for citizenship in 1991 but that his application
was left unanswered for years.
"I believe and expect that the court of
appeal will restore my rights and that, according
to the law, the Central Election Committee (CEC)
will register me as a candidate for the presidential
The appeals court was to hear Hovannisian's case
today (January 20) and a decision is imminent.
"I with my associate will be participating
in all political processes taking place in Armenia,"
he said in a press conference this week.
After serving as Armenia's first Minister of
Foreign Affairs, two years ago Hovannisian founded
the Armenian Center for Strategic and National
Research. In August 2001, Hovinassian gained Armenian
citizenship, but has argued that his right to
be a Presidential candidate should be based on
his earlier application for citizenship.
"We realized that we dealt with a power
decision that had been developed in the pre-election
staff of the President," Hovannisian said,
adding that the judge and others involved in the
decision against him were "toys" of
the current administration.
Prior to the lower court's ruling, the President's
press secretary Vahe Gabrielyan had told the press
that regardless of the court decision Hovannisian
could not be a candidate because the verdict would
not be in legal force until after January 20,
the final day for registering candidates.
the statement made by the press secretary I can
say that it is a result of a lack of knowledge
concerning the law," said Vardan Poghosyan,
Hovannisian's attorney, "and is the wish
of President Robert Kocharyan to leave one of
the best candidates out of the competition by
(Though January 17 is the last day for registration,
any would-be candidate who is left off the list
has three days to appeal the CEC decision.)
The session of CEC concerning registration of
the candidates took place earlier than was expected.
Hovannisian's application was not approved on
the basis that information from the passport office
said he has been a citizen since August 2001.
Seven members of the committee voted against
registering Hovannisian. Two members of the committee,
who voted for registering Hovannisian (they represent
oppositional parties), disputed the decision and
raised questions of Kocharyan's 10 year citizenship
and 10 year residence.
"We are sure that a court would satisfy
our appeal in any legal country," Poghosyan
said. "As I know well enough the Armenian
legal system I'm not optimistic regarding this
The lawyer went on to say that the court's ruling
against Hovanissian makes it "questionable"
whether the February 19 election will be "free,
just, transparent or corresponding to the European
Poghosyan, a political scientist and specialist
in constitutional law, says his client applied
through lawful means for citizenship but his right
of citizenship was violated.
He says that in Kocharyan's case the violations
are obvious, stating that the President was never
a citizen of Soviet Armenia (as Karabakh was part
of Azerbaijan) and never presented application
for getting citizenship.
Robert Kocharyan, Hovannisian claims "knows
that in case of free and just elections results
will be 80 percent to 20 percent, and not in his
While it is not expected that the appeals court
will overturn the lower court ruling, such a decision
isn't likely to end Hovanissian's political life
(though he would not be eligible to run for President
It is expected that Hovannisian would endorse
one of the oppositional party candidates, though
for the time being he hasn't said who he would