"Iravunk" claims that President Kocharian has recently held a confidential meeting with his "closest oligarchs" and spin doctors during which they decided to ensure his victory in the first round of the February elections at any cost. "They came to the conclusion that it is impossible to make Kocharian president with various political techniques or any other means of influencing public opinion. The only option is to fully use administrative and power levers. As a result, they took a political decision to rule out a runoff vote."
"Iravunk" also reports that Andranik Markarian's Republican Party (HHK) has already drawn up the list of persons who are to be elected to the next parliament from the 56 single-mandate constituencies. The list includes representatives of the HHK, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir as well as oligarchs and local quasi-Mafiosi. The Republicans "left intact" only two opposition-controlled constituencies in central Yerevan where vote manipulation proved highly problematic in the past. Still, the paper expects serious "clashes" between Markarian and Kocharian over the distribution of parliament seats. This will give the opposition enough room for maneuver, it says.
Also anticipating "differences inside the government pyramid" is Victor Dallakian, the Republican chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs. Dallakian tells "Aravot" that they will cause "a lot of tension" among governing factions led by Kocharian, Markarian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and the "oligarchs." The opposition, Dallakian continues, thus gets a real chance to achieve success.
"Azg" and "Hayots Ashkhar" continue to make the point that the 16-party opposition coalition will fail to agree on a joint presidential candidacy. The papers sympathetic to Kocharian says the latest opposition moves are just an imitation of their real unity.
"Aravot" editorializes that it has trouble understanding what are those "purely political differences" which exist between Kocharian and the opposition. For one thing, they express similar views on the Karabakh conflict. "So it is not clear why the opposition forces want to oust Kocharian." The only political force that offers an alternative view on Karabakh is Levon Ter-Petrosian and his allies.
But as one of the leaders of the opposition alliance, Shavarsh Kocharian, says in an "Iravunk" interview, none of the 16 parties plans to team up with the "former regime" because they believe that Ter-Petrosian was the architect of Armenia's flawed political system. He argues that the classical left-right political division is irrelevant to Armenia because it is not a democratic and rule-of-law country. "The people don't care whether it is the left or the right that is plundering Armenia," he says.