By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Using unusually strong terms, National Unity Party leader Artashes Geghamian lashed out at Armenia’s leadership on Thursday, but warned his opposition partners to exercise caution in their promised efforts to bring about regime change.
Addressing a party meeting in Yerevan, one of the country’s most popular opposition figures sounded cool towards other oppositionists’ plans to try to topple President Robert Kocharian with a campaign of street protests. He claimed that the Armenian opposition is being “incited by the authorities into taking reckless steps.”
“The Armenian opposition must initiate regime change prudently so that our conscience remains in peace tomorrow and the day after,” Geghamian told supporters.
In his speech, he avoided any mention of the ongoing confidential contacts between National Unity and other opposition groups, notably the rival Artarutyun bloc of Stepan Demirchian, on the possibility of forming a broad-based alliance against the ruling regime. The talks were initiated earlier this month by the Hanrapetutyun party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, the most radical force inside Artarutyun.
Hanrapetutyun leaders were buoyed by the success of the November bloodless uprising in neighboring Georgia that overthrew President Eduard Shevardnadze following a fraudulent parliamentary election. The opposition parties are unanimous in accusing Kocharian of similar vote rigging in last year’s Armenian presidential election.
However, Demirchian and Geghamian have not been on speaking terms since then, accusing each other of secretly collaborating with Kocharian during the presidential race. Also, the latter has previously been unwilling to attend opposition rallies in Yerevan, saying that they are ineffectual.
Geghamian at the same time predicted on Thursday an imminent downfall of Kocharian and his most trusted lieutenant, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, describing them as “doomed people.” “We will meet this spring and summer without you, Messrs. Kocharian and Sarkisian,” he declared to rapturous applause.
The National Unity Leader did not explain how that will come about. Instead he accused Sarkisian of planning an attempt on his life.
The attack appeared to be in response to court allegations that the authorities sought to implicate Geghamian in a foiled plot to kill Sarkisian that was allegedly hatched by a former national security officer. The man, Levon Abrahamian, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Yerevan court on January 13.
Abrahamian claimed in the court that a senior prosecutor who interrogated him after his arrest on September 15 offered him a shorter jail sentence in return for giving incriminating testimony against Geghamian. The prosecutor denied the claims.