By Shakeh Avoyan
Artashes Geghamian, a presidential candidate who came in third in the February 19 election, declined Friday to endorse the top opposition contender, Stepan Demirchian, demanding that the ballot be invalidated because of reported irregularities. He said Demirchian should not agree to go into a run-off with incumbent Robert Kocharian.
“A second round would mean we accept that Mr. Kocharian got more than 700,000 votes. We would thus legitimize them,” Geghamian told RFE/RL in an interview.
“The elections must be annulled,” he said. “If they are deemed illegal, endorsing one or another candidate becomes senseless.” Still, Geghamian hinted that the decision is not final and he might still change his mind.
The preliminary results of the elections gave the outspoken leader of the opposition National Unity party 17 percent of the vote to Demirchian’s 28 percent. His endorsement would therefore improve the latter’s chances of a second-round victory. But Geghamian appears to be keeping his options open, possibly hoping to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Demirchian.
Like all other opposition candidates, Geghamian accuses Kocharian of seeking reelection by fraudulent means. He was the initiator of their Wednesday statement alleging widespread fraud. The statement was issued three hours before the closure of polls.