By Artem Chernamorian in Gyumri
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian launched on Monday a fierce attack on the rival Artarutyun (Justice) bloc which has repeatedly accused him of secretly cooperating with the Armenian authorities during the ongoing election campaign.
Campaigning in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri, Geghamian said he refused to endorse Artarutyun leader Stepan Demirchian for the March 5 presidential run-off because the latter’s entourage is dominated by supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. He claimed that half of the bloc’s candidates for this Sunday’s parliamentary elections have been members of Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party at various times.
Geghamian had earlier motivated his refusal to back Demirchian against incumbent President Robert Kocharian with his belief that the February 19 first round of the presidential election was rigged by the authorities and should therefore be rerun. Meeting with several hundred Gyumri residents, he said he did not expose Demirchian’s alleged HHSh connections at the time in order “not to disappoint the people.”
The Artarutyun leaders, on the other hand, claim that Geghamian had struck a secret deal with Kocharian aimed at preventing Demirchian’s victory in the presidentia vote. They renewed those allegations during a campaign trip to Gyumri over the weekend.
Many local political observers believe that Artarutyun and Geghamian’s National Unity party are vying for the hearts and minds of the same vast segment of the population which is unhappy with the ruling regime. Hence, the analysts say, their increasingly acrimonious mutual attacks.