"Haykakan Zhamanak" carries results of an opinion poll which shows that Stepan Demirchian, the leader of the opposition People's Party (HZhK), is the most popular politician in Yerevan. More than 21 percent of 1,100 respondents said they would vote for Demirchian in the presidential elections. Another opposition leader, Artashes Geghamian, came in second with 14 percent, while former president Levon Ter-Petrosian was in the third place with about 12 percent. Ter-Petrosian was followed by the incumbent President Robert Kocharian. Only 10 percent of the respondents expressed their readiness to vote for Kocharian, according to the poll.
The paper says that the survey was conducted by an unidentified political party. It says Demirchian's HZhK has the highest approval rating at 16 percent, followed by Geghamian's National Accord party (12 percent), the Republican Party (5.5 percent). The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the former ruling HHSh and the Communists have 5 percent each.
"Hayots Ashkhar," for its part, quotes an outspoken pro-Kocharian deputy, Gurgen Yeghiazarian, as saying that Geghamian has the highest approval rating in the country at present. "Compared to others, he is conducting the most organized election campaign and is preparing seriously [for the polls]," Yeghiazarian says. As for Ter-Petrosian, Yeghiazarian says the people have not forgotten hardships they suffered during his days in power and will not reelect him president. The lawmaker at the same time believes that it is Kocharian who will win the February presidential elections.
Newspapers report that on Thursday members of the Council of Europe's monitoring mission visited the national security ministry jail to meet with Nairi Hunanian and his brother Karen, who led a band of gunmen in to the Armenian parliament in October 1999 and killed eight politicians.
"Yerkir" warns that failure to abolish the death penalty could spark riots in Yerevan's Nubarashen prison where some 40 convicts are held on a death row. At least this is what their relatives say. "It is time to ascertain the fate of those 40 prisoners," the weekly newspaper writes, adding that exceptionally executing the Hunanian brothers and other parliament attackers would "sacrifice the lives of 40 persons, one of whom might be innocent."
Hovannes Yeritsian, the former chief of the Armenian civil aviation authority, protests to "Aravot" about the recent publication of a photo of his Yerevan villa on the front page of the newspaper. The paper portrayed the property as evidence of Yeritsian's corruption. But Yeritsian counters that he earned his money by honest means, while working in Russia in the 1990s. "And yet you compared me with those prostitutes," he says angrily, in an apparent reference to other top government officials whose expensive houses have also appeared in "Aravot." The paper urges its readers to recall the names of those officials.