Geghamyan, the last mayor of Soviet Yerevan, is
riding a wave of popular nostalgia for former
Communist political figures.
Poverty, social polarization, and insecurity
have made people yearn for a return to the certainties
of Soviet times. The phenomenon first surfaced
with the campaign of Karen Demirchyan in 1998
- the vacuum created by his murder has been filled
this time by his son Stepan and by Geghamyan.
Geghamyan's spokesman Hmayak Hovhannisyan stated
several times on TV that Demirchyan was only a
successor in name of his father while Geghamyan
had passed through the same administrative school
as the former Soviet party boss.
Geghamyan, 53, was born in Yerevan and his speeches
have repeatedly referred to the city's traditions,
a subtle comment on President Robert Kocharyan's
Karabakhi origins. His opponents call Geghamyan
populist for his campaigning style of playing
on people's emotions.
He graduated from Yerevan Polytechnic Institute
in 1971 and immediately began a political and
party career. He held leading posts in the Komsomol
(young communists) from 1972 to 1978 then followed
the path of his father Mamikon Geghamyan through
the Armenian Communist Party ranks. In 1987, he
became First Secretary of Mashtots District Committee
in Yerevan and two years later he was appointed
Head of Yerevan City Council (mayor).
Geghamyan's political rise coincided with the
Karabakh Movement. Unlike numerous high-ranking
Soviet officials, he didn't associate with new
authorities and left the political field. That
is a factor in his popularity among voters today.
Geghamyan spent several years in business then
returned to politics in 1995, when he was elected
to the National Assembly. He founded the "National
Unity" political party in 1997 and from 1999
led the Law and Unity faction in the Assembly.
was a candidate in the 1998 presidential elections
and backed Kocharyan against Karen Demirchyan
in the second round. Later in 2000, when the President's
power weakened, Geghamyan again declared solidarity
with Kocharyan, something the incumbent's campaign
team has reminded voters of. Geghamyan responds
that he was trying to save the country from "fratricidal
Geghamyan turned sharply against Kocharyan after
May 2000, when his hopes of being named Prime
Minister in the new government were disappointed.
He has even accused Kocharyan of knowledge of
political murders. At least 10 officials have
been killed in recent years without anyone being
arrested, he said, leading him to conclude: "Kocharyan
doesn't dismiss himself from the burden of those
Geghamyan has pledged to increase pensions and
the salaries of workers of state budgetary organizations
within one year. He states: "The shadow economy
accounts for 40-60 percent of the economy. By
destroying the shadow and multiplying the income
of the budget, salaries will be tripled."
He pledges to fight corrupt business monopolies
by creating opportunities for free competition.
He argues that a middle class will emerge, that
will be supportive of him, if the field is opened
to hundreds of businessmen instead of one.
Geghamyan, who is married and has two sons, regards
himself as a political centrist who leans to the
left because of the present social conditions.
His campaign has won support from Communists and
Paruyr Hayrikyan, who spent 17 years in Soviet
camps as a political prisoner. Geghamyan regards
this support as one of his trump cards, demonstrating
that ideological differences can be set aside
for the good of the country.
National Unity Party