“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that former prime minister Armen Sarkisian, one of Robert Kocharian’s potential election challengers, is now in Moscow meeting with senior Russian government officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. He may even be received by President Vladimir Putin. “Armen Sarkisian is discussing with high-ranking Russian officials the domestic political situation in Armenia and possible developments.”
Another former prime minister, Aram Sarkisian, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that there will be two “real candidates” in the February presidential elections. He says those opposition leaders who will refuse to rally around a single opposition candidate will demonstrate that they are “in Kocharian’s pocket.” That single candidate will be chosen by “four to six” major opposition parties. Sarkisian does not rule out the possibility of former president Levon Ter-Petrosian taking on that role. The same applies to Armen Sarkisian, he adds. The ex-premier also claims that the so-called government and business “oligarchs,” who are expected to back Kocharian’s reelection, are in fact playing a “dual game” and may eventually throw their weight behind the opposition.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also says that Armenia’s division into 56 electoral districts has caused serious differences among pro-government forces. The pro-government parties represented in the parliament agreed not to compete with each other in the 56 single-mandate constituencies. “But it became evident during the drawing of the district maps that such an agreement is impossible. The reason for that is excessive ambitions of the pro-government parties and forces. The Republican Party, for example, wants to get at least 15 majoritarian districts. Similar claims are laid by the People’s Deputy group. Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir plan to push at least seven deputies each through the majoritarian districts.” The problem is that there are other influential pro-Kocharian forces and individuals hungry for parliament seats.
Interviewed by the paper, the leader of the People’s Deputy, Karen Karapetian, confirms that he had a “tough telephone conversation” with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. “We have our interests and I warn that if they attempt to fool us, those attempts will have very severe consequences,” Karapetian says. He says the group has also told the “sister parties” not to challenge its candidates.
“Aravot” carries a report claiming that a list of recently opened cafes in central Yerevan was personally approved by the police chief of the central municipal district. The list also contains the names of senior officials “sponsoring” those lucrative businesses. Among them are a deputy minister of transport, prosecutors, a presidential bodyguard, a senior member of Dashnaktsutyun and even Deputy Defense Minister Manvel Grigorian.