YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of a major Armenian opposition party, has decided to end his membership in the country’s parliament, a senior party source said on Monday.
The source, who asked not to be identified, declined to comment on reasons for the unexpected move, saying that Hovannisian himself will explain his motives in the coming days. The spokesman for his Heritage party, Hovsep Khurshudian, refused to confirm or refute the resignation.
A former U.S. citizen, Hovannisian, 50, relocated to Armenia from California with his family in 1990 and served as the newly independent country’s first foreign minister in 1992. He founded Heritage in 2002 and remains its top leader despite holding no formal positions in the party leadership at present.
Heritage won seven seats in Armenia’s 131-member National Assembly in the last parliamentary elections held in May 2007. The party tried unsuccessfully to earn an extra seat when he contested an August 2007 repeat election in a single-mandate constituency in central Armenia.
Heritage chose to support former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election after Hovannisian was controversially disqualified from the race. The party has increasingly distanced itself from Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress over the past year. In an early July statement, Heritage said it has decided to act more independently in the political arena after failing to get Armenia’s leading opposition forces to join forces.