“Aravot” says that Robert Kocharian and Aleksandr Lukashenko, the autocratic president of Belarus ostracized by the West, have a lot in common with their penchant for “absolute” and “unlimited” power. “In the intellectual sense and in terms of their lust for absolute power, Lukashenko and Kocharian are very similar. But their tactics are hugely different. Lukashenko does not hide his dictatorial ambitions, personally threatens and smears his opponents and is constantly wrangling with the international community. Kocharian, by contrast, is not threatening anybody publicly and never challenges international observers.” Unlike Lukashenko, the paper claims, Kocharian will not have to rig elections to win another presidential term. In modern-day Armenia it is much easier to cling to power by simply buying votes. With a single vote bribe averaging $10, Kocharian will need to spend $5 million to win the 2003 election. That is no big money for his most trusted and powerful lieutenant, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
The increasingly acute problem of election bribes is also discussed by “Yerkir,” a newspaper with a different political orientation. As “psychological despair” becomes the dominant mood of the Armenian electorate, “Yerkir” writes, fewer and fewer people believe that their vote can make a difference. “Those who as recently as five years ago would abhor giving or accepting vote bribes now don’t give a damn about any moral principles.”
“Iravunk” comes up with a damning indictment of the current authorities, saying that their policies have left the country facing a difficult choice between the existing “bad” and a “worse” situation. The regime is increasingly prepared to crush any dissent and does not care about the rule of law, according to the paper. Nor does it allow outsiders to engage in any lucrative business. All those individuals that are not affiliated with the ruling clique are thus being driven into “the radical opposition.”
“Golos Armenii” claims that pro-Russian opposition groups consider holding anti-government demonstrations during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Armenia next month. But the paper is skeptical about their chances of success. It says that by playing the Russian card the opposition will not be able to weaken Kocharian, who has developed a good personal rapport with Putin and other Russian leaders. Even on the economic front there is little the opposition can seize upon to embarrass the authorities. Kocharian is on track to keep his promise to create 40,000 new jobs this year.