By Karine Kalantarian
Artashes Geghamian, an Armenian opposition heavyweight, lambasted President Robert Kocharian on Saturday, but distanced himself from a fresh push for regime change promised by the latter’s number one political foe, the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc.
Geghamian said that although he continues to believe that Kocharian’s policies “endanger the country’s future,” his National Unity Party will not join a campaign of anti-government demonstrations announced by Artarutyun. “We support slightly different approaches that would take into account possible geopolitical developments which will occur in the region,” he told a news conference. “We have no right to jeopardize everything.”
The comments followed the resumption on Friday of street protests staged by Artarutyun against the official results of this year’s presidential election. Leaders of the bloc told thousands of supporters that they will soon launch unspecified “decisive actions” against Kocharian’s regime which they regard as illegitimate.
Geghamian and Artarutyun leader Stepan Demirchian were Kocharian’s main challengers in the February 19 first round of balloting criticized as deeply flawed by international observers. Relations between them worsened sharply after Geghamian, who placed third in the official vote tally, refused to endorse Demirchian for the March 5 run-off. Some Artarutyun leaders later accused him of secretly collaborating with the authorities, a charge he always denied.
Still, Artarutyun and National Unity, the only opposition groups represented in Armenia’s parliament, agreed earlier this month to coordinate their activities in the Kocharian-controlled National Assembly. Geghamian noted that they share the same goals. But he was vague about his party’s attitude to the main issue on the Artarutyun agenda: a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian suggested by the Constitutional Court in April.
The normally outspoken and emotional National Unity leader was keen to imply that Armenia should avoid a destabilization of the political situation in the run-up to renewed international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Geghamian also revealed that his party will refrain from harsh attacks on the governing three-party coalition because that would play into Kocharian’s hands. The Armenian president, he claimed, would like to deepen and play on differences inside the coalition.