By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian launched on Friday fresh scathing attacks on former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, describing the fellow presidential candidate as a political lightweight and accusing him of plagiarizing his ideas.
The verbal attacks dominated a news conference that was supposed to be devoted to Geghamian’s electoral strategy. It coincided with Ter-Petrosian’s separate meeting with journalists, the first in more than a decade.
“I don’t consider Levon Ter-Petrosian a political rival because his ‘serene thoughts’ suggest that he is in a state of nirvana and has still not woken up,” Geghamian charged, risking fresh accusations of secret collaboration with the government.
“For the current authorities, the most desirable candidate is Levon Ter-Petrosian for the simple reason that none of the presidential candidates is more vulnerable than Levon Ter-Petrosian,” he said. “You just can’t be more vulnerable [than Ter-Petrosian.]”
Geghamian’s election campaign chief, Aleksan Karapetian, went as far as to call Ter-Petrosian a “government agent.”
The once influential leader of the opposition National Unity Party (AMK) and his right-hand man made the claims in the face of persistent allegations by the opposition press that he entered the presidential race with the aim of discrediting the former president. The allegations followed Geghamian’s confidential meetings late last year with Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and President Robert Kocharian.
The outspoken oppositionist has since significantly toned down his criticism of the Kocharian administration and made Ter-Petrosian the main target of his election-related discourse. In particular, he has accused Ter-Petrosian of “plundering” Armenia while in power and planning to trigger violent clashes in “at least 400” polling stations on election day.
Geghamian was on Friday visibly angered by a reporter’s question about the AMK allegedly receiving cash from Sarkisian. “You accuse the prime minister of handing out bribes,” he shot back. “Throughout his adult life Artashes Geghamian has managed to solve and will continue to solve his issues by himself.”
Geghamian went on to describe Ter-Petrosian’s election manifesto made public on Monday as a collection of ideas mainly stolen from his past speeches and writings. “I am grateful that he treated issues raised by me in the past with so much care,” he said.