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By Anna Saghabalian
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian pointedly declined on Wednesday to announce his participation in next year’s presidential election and said he is ready to endorse another candidate.

Geghamian indicated that he will stand in the election if he feels that he stands a real chance of winning it. He said he and his National Unity Party (AMK) have yet to decide whether it would make sense to contest the vote simply to “express our views on pivotal issues” facing Armenia.

Geghamian was until recently one of the country’s most popular opposition figures, finishing third in the last presidential election held in 2003. His popularity has since declined significantly, as evidenced by the AMK’s poor showing in the May parliamentary elections. According to official vote results, the party won less than 4 percent of the vote and failed to gain a single parliament seat.

Geghamian underlined the reversal of fortunes with his vague remarks. Significantly, he did not rule out the possibility of throwing his weight behind another presidential hopeful who would embrace his “anti-crisis” economic program.

Geghamian also replaced his customary harsh criticism of the Armenian government with calls for the consolidation of the country’s political elite for the sake of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other issues relating to the “salvation of Armenian statehood.” “It is imperative for [former President] Levon Ter-Petrosian, Vazgen Manukian, Artashes Geghamian, Paruyr Hayrikian, Robert Kocharian, Serzh Sarkisian, Aram Karapetian and our other colleagues … to sit down at the table and reach a common denominator on at least one issue,” he told reporters, referring to Karabakh.

Geghamian also revealed that he met with Ter-Petrosian two weeks ago to discuss “threats to Armenian statehood.” He said they reached no concrete agreements because of their differences on a number of unspecified issues.

The meeting was part of Ter-Petrosian’s ongoing consultations with various opposition forces which are aimed at building broad-based political support for his possible presidential bid. Speaking at a weekend AMK conference, Geghamian indicated that he is unlikely to endorse the ex-president.

(Photolur photo)
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