- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 7, 2003 

None of the Above: Geghamyan refuses to support either candidate, claims only he can save the country from bloodshed

Geghamyan, left, says nobody gets his votes.Third-place candidate Artashes Geghamyan has removed himself from any participation in next Wednesday's runoff, but the veteran politician by no means left the fray quietly.

Late Monday, Geghamyan, whose 17 percent in the first round of voting is thought to have potential influence on the runoff between President Robert Kocharyan and Stepan Demirchyan, made statements that surprised and likely disappointed his Opposition colleagues.

Geghamyan announced that he would not give his support to either candidate, claiming that the initial vote was rigged by the President to face Demirchyan because Kocharyan knew he would face "inevitable defeat" in a runoff with Geghamyan.

But it is a much more inflammatory comment from Geghamyan that drew reaction from the Opposition.

"The incumbent Armenian authorities know perfectly well that they will be executed by firing squad if the opposition wins," Geghamyan said, adding: "Everything was done to prevent me entering the second round of the elections, although it was Artashes Geghamyan who was the guarantor that no blood would be shed in Armenia."

The latter comment drew sharp reaction from Demirchyan supporters.

"Our candidate has never said anything about physical reprisals," said Demirchyan campaign manager Grigor Harutyunyan, who called Geghamyan's remarks "incomprehensible."

"I share Mr. Geghamyan's view on mass irregularities," Aram Sargsyan of the pro-Demirchyan Hanrapetutyun party told Radio Free Europe ( "On this issue (of potential violence) Artashes Geghamyan has gone too far. I don't like his reference to some bi-lateral clans. It's too emotional."

Today Geghamyan said he will appeal to the Central Election Commission to have the election declared invalid and if he is not satisfied with the CEC's response will take his claim to Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile lesser-know candidate Aram Harutyunyan, who got less than one percent of last Wednesday's vote said he will not support Demirchyan.

Much of Monday and Tuesday's attention focused on specifics surrounding the arrests of several dozen Demirchyan supporters.

Tanik's director says protestors held illegally.The Ministry of Justice says 99 people have been arrested in Yerevan and surrounding regions. Demirchyan headquarters claimed more than 130 arrests have been made in the past two days, and that those taken into custody include members of the Demirchyan campaign staff. Some were arrested then released, while 33 remain in custody, according to "Tanik" a Non-Governmental Organization dealing with judicial and human rights issues.

The arrests were for "holliganism", for insulting police and for participation in a non-sanctioned public demonstration. (The head of the Yerevan Municipality legal department told ArmeniaNow that only in cases in which an organization wants to have streets closed or use police for crowd control is it necessary to apply for a city permit.)

Those detained face up to 15 days in jail and will not be allowed to vote next Wednesday.

The majority of the detained are said to be Demirchyan proxies.

At a press conference today, Ashot Bleyan, director of Tanik said those in custody are being held illegally, as some were not allowed to attend their own trials and some were not allowed attorney representation.

"The judge announced to everybody that he himself is violating the law by having closed trial sessions and that he will do whatever he wants to," said Parliament Member Arshak Sadoyan, who spoke to the presiding judge on behalf of the arrested.

Republican Party member Armen Mkrtchyan, head of Arabkir electoral committee said police came to his house early in the morning Sunday to arrest him. Mkrtchyan said he called journalists and when television reporters appeared the police left.

"What is happening in the post-election period can be described as state terrorism," says Avetik Ishkhanyan, head of the Armenian Committee of Helsinki, who is now trying to protect people's rights through participating in the juridical procedures.

"Sometimes they are being taken to the police departments, threatened and then set free. Sometimes they are being arrested or subjected to administrative fines. There are many cases of people not sleeping at their homes, they just escape. There are also cases when relatives do not know where their children are. Yesterday a villager from Vedi addressed me telling that it had been three days he didn't know where his son was. The police took him away and the place where he was taken is unknown."

Ministry of Justice spokesman Ara Saghatelyan denied any political motivation in the arrests, citing Article 180 of the Code on Administrative Misdemeanors.

In other election-related news Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador John Ordway said his Embassy shares the views of the OSCE report on election violations. However, Ordway denied that the US had announced that in case of five percent violations it would not recognize the elections as legitimate.

(ArmeniaNow reporter Zhanna Alexanyan contributed to this report.)


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  Head of State
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Head of State

President Robert Kocharyan was elected to a second term.



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