By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia's leading left-leaning opposition parties continued on Tuesday intensive talks on ways of joining forces in advance of the forthcoming elections.
The leaders of 12 such organizations, including the People's, Communist, National Accord and Hanrapetutyun parties, were meeting behind closed doors to decide what concrete form their pre-election cooperation should take. The meetings were still going on as of late evening.
The National Accord leader, Artashes Geghamian, told RFE/RL earlier in the day that the discussions will result in the formation of an electoral alliance against President Robert Kocharian and his allies. He said the opposition parties have already worked out a "joint anti-crisis" program and will agree on a single presidential candidate later on. "Our goal is to get Armenia out of this nightmare," he said.
However, the other opposition heavyweights claimed that the creation of a bloc is not yet on the agenda. "We are talking about cooperation, not an alliance," said Suren Sureniants, the spokesman for Hanrapetutyun. A representative of the People's Party (HZhK) made similar comments.
The opposition consultations do not involve major center-right opposition groups such as Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union (AZhM) and the National Democratic Party (AZhK) led by Shavarsh Kocharian.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Kocharian warned that the left-wingers risk splitting the opposition camp and thereby playing into the hands of the authorities. He urged them to put aside "the left-and-right divisions" and come up with a joint candidate who would be able to defeat President Kocharian in the February elections. "We should find the common idea that will unite the opposition around a single candidate" he said.