By Karine Kalantarian
Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the National Accord party, urged Thursday Armenia’s other leading opposition parties to back his candidacy in next year’s presidential elections, saying that he is best placed to defeat the incumbent, President Robert Kocharian.
Geghamian, reaffirming his presidential ambitions, said he would make “the best joint opposition candidate” because of his personality and political platform.
The call was primarily addressed to the loose alliance of 13 opposition parties that have challenged Kocharian for the past two months. They are expected to try to put forward a single presidential candidate.
Geghamian said that only he is able to take on that role. He made it clear that if the alliance decides to rally around a different candidate, he will run for president anyway.
Some opposition leaders suspect Geghamian, who had welcomed Kocharian’s rise to power in 1998 and supported him up until last year, of maintaining secret ties with the regime.
Geghamian sought to again dispel that suspicion by renewing his verbal attacks on Kocharian who he claimed “has exhausted himself and has no support base among the Armenian people.” “He has failed in both internal and foreign policies, and there can be no justification for those failures,” the National Accord leader told a news conference.
Geghamian also surprised reporters when he declared that the former Armenian president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, is a “much more mature statesman” than Kocharian. He has harshly criticized Ter-Petrosian’s political legacy in the past.