By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
The broad-based coalition of Armenian opposition groups on Thursday again ducked the question of whom to nominate as a presidential candidate, saying that it will discuss the matter only after working out a joint campaign platform.
Vladimir Darpinian, the Armenian Communist leader who chaired a meeting of the coordinating council of the 16-party grouping, said “the time and situation will tell” whether the opposition can and should participate in the February election with a single candidate. He dismissed President Robert Kocharian’s surprise offer to help the oppositionists field only one candidate.
“I don’t know whether the president’s statement was derogatory or serious,” Darpinian told RFE/RL. “In any case, he is not the one who should help us.”
Kocharian, revealing his intention to win the election in the first round, said a two-horse race would allow Armenia to avoid a run-off vote and additional tensions and expenditures associated with it. His opponents say that he simply wants to stay in power.
The 16 parties decided Thursday to start working on a common program. Each of them will submit its conceptual proposals to the coordinating body.
No discussions were apparently held on a detailed plan of action publicized last week by Artashes Geghamian, leader of the National Accord plan. Geghamian, who seeks to be the joint opposition candidate, has indicated that the 15 other parties should embrace it as the basis of their common platform – a stance which they find unacceptable.
Geghamian again did not attend the council meeting. His differences with the other opposition leaders threaten to break up the alliance.
The extent of those differences was played down Ashot Manucharian, another prominent oppositionist. “Today we have only one program: to rid the country of the clan system of which President Kocharian is the flagship,” he told RFE/RL. He said the overwhelming majority of opposition parties will stick to the alliance and reach agreement on the single candidate in the run-up to the election.