By Armen Zakarian
Aram Karapetian, who finished fourth in last year’s presidential election, added on Wednesday to the ambiguity of his political line, predicting a downfall of Armenia’s present leadership and at the same distancing himself from the mainstream opposition.
Karapetian said regime change in the country is “inevitable,” but was vague about what might threaten President Robert Kocharian’s firm grip on power. “The party is beginning to prepare for the pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia,” he said, referring to his Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party.
Karapetian urged Kocharian to follow the example of his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian and quit before a destabilization of the political situation. “That would be the best scenario for Armenia’s progress,” he said.
The country’s two main opposition forces, led by presidential election runner-ups Stepan Demirchian and Artashes Geghamian, hope to achieve that by pressurizing the authorities into holding a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian. Demirchian’s Artarutyun bloc and Geghamian’s National Unity Party announced a joint boycott of parliament sessions late last month in protest against the authorities’ strong opposition to such a vote. Their leaders have since been meeting with supporters in regions outside Yerevan in a bid to mobilize public support for their demands.
Karapetian, who fiercely attacked the authorities in Demirchian-led rallies last spring, made it clear that he will not join the latest opposition offensive because he believes Armenia needs a “consolidation” of its leading political parties. “We are a new opposition,” he said, adding that his party would support government policies that are in line with its program.
A politically inexperienced scholar who spent much of the past decade in Moscow, Karapetian was unknown to most Armenians before the start of the 2003 presidential race. He quickly made his name and attracted a substantial following with tough anti-government rhetoric that earned him about 3 percent of the vote. He endorsed Demirchian for the March 5 run-off with Kocharian and was a major speaker at the ensuing opposition rallies in Yerevan.
However, he has changed course since then and is now trying to cast himself as an independent figure who is better placed to run the country than any other opposition politician.