National Unity Party leader
A onetime mayor of Yerevan, Artashes Geghamian is a repeat presidential candidate. He ran for office in 2003, and received 17.4 percent of the vote.
Born in 1949, Geghamian worked for years as an official in both the Komsomol and Communist Party, where he served as an aide to Armenia's longtime Soviet-era boss, Karen Demirchian. Geghamian was first elected to parliament in 1995; two years later, in strong opposition to then President Levon Ter-Petrosian, he formed the National Unity Party. After eight years in the National Assembly, the party failed to win any seats in the 2007 parliamentary elections, gaining just 3.59 percent of the votes cast.
Many observers contend that Geghamian's popularity began to dip after he failed to join forces with Stepan Demirchian, leader of the People's Party of Armenia, for the second round of voting in the 2003 presidential elections. Demirchian lost the vote in the end to incumbent President Robert Kocharian.
Regardless, he is not considered one of the opposition frontrunners in the current race. Despite a 170-page presidential platform ("A Creation Program") that calls for reviving industry, strengthening ties with Russia and fighting corruption, Geghamian appears to have set criticism of rival candidate and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian as his major campaign message.
Slick television ads, including motifs from classic Armenian literature and music, argue that Geghamian is a skilled leader who can keep the country from retuning to the difficult times of the 1990s. This has prompted some speculation that Geghamian is acting at the behest of fellow candidate Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who avoids direct criticism of Ter-Petrosian.
The frequency with which state television has aired excerpts from Geghamian's speeches criticizing Ter-Petrosian ("When we drank beer, those who later became the Armenian National Movement leaders [a reference to Ter-Petrosian], used to collect our empty bottles." ) has reinforced that view, though the candidate himself denies it.
For the sake of national unity!
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