Commenting on the weekend congress of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), Armenian newspapers agree that its leader, Stepan Demirchian, is well placed to win multi-party opposition endorsement of his presidential bid.
“Aravot” says Demirchian’s 30-minute speech at the congress was very ambiguous and short on detail. Still, the gathering was a major success for him.
“Stepan Demirchian is the most likely joint presidential candidate of the coalition of 16 [parties],” writes “Haykakan Zhamanak.”
The mood among opposition activists was euphoric, writes “Hayots Ashkhar.” There was no lack of rapturous applause at the government’s main conference hall on Saturday.
“The HZhK congress has brought quite a lot of clarity into the opposition camp,” “Orran” says in an editorial. The paper believes that Kocharian’s popularity is nowhere near enough for winning an outright majority of votes in the first round of the February elections. A one-round vote is impossible without massive fraud, it concludes.
“Robert Kocharian’s main rival has finally emerged,” agrees “Or.” “Compared to [Artashes] Geghamian, Demirchian is definitely more acceptable to other oppositionists. And many circles close to the authorities view him as the most moderate opposition candidate. One should also not forget the party factor. The HZhK can really be considered the strongest opposition party. No less important is the financial factor. According to some rumors, there are a number of foreign businesspeople who have tentatively agreed to fund Stepan Demirchian’s campaign.”
“It is obvious for Robert Kocharian’s team that if they fail to ensure his real or falsified reelection in the first round [of voting], both the administrative structures and oligarchs will split up in the second round, putting a huge question mark over Kocharian’s second term,” says “Iravunk.” “But the inevitability of a run-off vote is becoming more and more evident.” Not just because of Demirchian. The paper believes that there will also be several other major candidates who will make it impossible for Kocharian to poll more than 35 percent of the vote in the first round. “So in the second round, Kocharian will have to compete with a candidate who will be backed by the entire opposition. Perhaps the only way of preventing that is to split the opposition. However, those efforts are yielding no visible results because there is a growing sense of mutual tolerance and understanding among the 16 [opposition] parties.”