By Hrach Melkumian
The Artarutyun (Justice) alliance of Stepan Demirchian made on Tuesday its most scathing attack yet on rival opposition leader Artashes Geghamian, in another indication of a deepening rift between the two former presidential candidates.
One of Artarutyun's most outspoken leaders, former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, derided Geghamian in front of opposition supporters in northwestern Armenia, accusing him of secretly cooperating with the authorities.
"Would he rather lose to Robert Kocharian than see anyone else from the opposition becoming president? What a mania for his own persona!" Sarkisian declared at a campaign rally in the local town of Artik.
He was referring to Geghamian's refusal to support Demirchian ahead of the latter's March 5 showdown with President Robert Kocharian. Geghamian, who came in third in the February 19 first round of voting, urged supporters to boycott the run-off, saying that the vote was falsified by the authorities. The Demirchian-led opposition, however, suspects him of striking a secret deal with Kocharian.
That suspicion increasingly turns into explicit allegations, with Sarkisian taking on the role of Geghamian's main detractor. "He was crying, 'People, hold on to my back, hold on to back!" Sarkisian said. "But he wasn't delivering a child, was he?"
"You have already someone behind your back. And we can see them very well," he said in remarks addressed to Geghamian.
Geghamian likewise implicitly accuses Demirchian of stealing his vote during the presidential election. Both opposition leaders are believed to be fighting to win over the same segment of the population unhappy with the government.
Artarutyun leaders, meanwhile, reaffirmed their pledge to launch impeachment proceedings against Kocharian in the event of their electoral victory. One of Demirchian's top allies, Vazgen Manukian, said: "This is the alliance which will oust the president and organize fresh presidential elections."