By Ruzanna Stepanian
At least three leaders of local chapters have resigned their membership in Artashes Geghamian’s National Accord Party (AMK) after the latter’s blistering attack on the former president during a party meeting on Tuesday.
Gurgen Grigorian, who headed the party’s structure in the Yerevan district of Erebuni, confirmed to RFE/RL the reports that appeared in the Armenian press about frictions within the party following Geghamian’s critical remarks about Levon Ter-Petrosian.
He further claimed that 3,500 members of the party in Erebuni were ready to follow suit and join the opposition movement spearheaded by Ter-Petrosian.
Grigorian also confirmed that at least two local party leaders, namely in the northern towns of Gavar and Hrazdan, had also ended their AMK leadership to join Ter-Petrosian’s movement.
“Enough is enough. I’m not a bird to swallow the bait. People now realize that you [AMK] are really useless. And I don’t want to bear the stamp of a betrayer,” Grigorian told RFE/RL.
The AMK leadership fiercely attacked Ter-Petrosian on Tuesday as the party officially nominated Geghamian as its presidential candidate. Geghamian also significantly toned down his criticism of the Armenian government. Risking more accusations of secret collaboration with the authorities, Geghamian revealed that he has met with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian recently to discuss the upcoming election.
Grigorian charged that Geghamian is in fact “working for the authorities to split the opposition” and said he no longer wanted to participate in the “dirty games”.
“All actions by Geghamian reveal him as an ‘oppositionist’ closely connected with the authorities. He’s been doing everything to loosen the opposition,” Grigorian continued. “I have made sure that he wants to improve his own well-being rather than change the system.”
Grigorian also claims that Geghamian effectively refused to back another opposition leader Stepan Demirchian, who faced a runoff with Robert Kocharian in the 2003 presidential election, and warned them not to participate in the opposition rallies then.
Geghamian brushed aside these accusations and downplayed the extent of the frictions inside the party. He said they have 411 local chapters and that no one except Gurgen Grigorian has so far informed them about their plans to quit the party.
“If he decided to quit, so be it. I cannot miss the opportunity to congratulate Levon Ter-Petrosian on getting such a ‘strong’ supporter,” Geghamian said with irony.