In a bomb-shell interview with “Aravot,” former Interior Minister Suren Abrahamian launches a strongly-worded attack on Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, revealing that they had serious differences when he was in government in 1999, a period when Sarkisian served as national security minister. “After [the parliament killings] of October 27, 1999 -- when I preferred to resign and keep my human integrity, whereas he preferred an armored Mercedes -- the differences turned into feud. And although he lurked in the background in the ensuring years, he has done everything to discredit and hurt me since then,” Abrahamian says. He claims that the Armenian Football Federation, which he headed between 2000 and 2002, was beset by internal conflicts due to Sarkisian’s intrigues.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that Artashes Geghamian is extremely unhappy with the Hanrapetutyun party over its recent opinion poll that put him a distant third in the popularity rankings. Geghamian claims that Hanrapetutyun acted on orders from Robert Kocharian who led in the poll with a 21 percent rating. A senior Hanrapetutyun member, Suren Sureniants, says that, on the contrary, the poll shows that the opposition can easily beat Kocharian if it unites. The paper agrees with this argument.
“Iravunk” similarly notes that the voter survey, if it is accurate, demonstrates that about 80 percent of the Armenian electorate is not content with Kocharian’s track record. Turning to Kocharian’s desire to secure a first-round victory in the election, the paper says two rounds of voting could be “extremely unfavorable” for the head of state. “The thing is that in the event of a second round the state bureaucracy and oligarchs will start wondering who will be the winner, which would inevitably damage Kocharian’s chances.” This is why Kocharian would like to finish the job in one round, something which is impossible if there is an “abundance of popular opposition candidates.” “Iravunk” is confident that there will be five or six major opposition candidates contesting the vote.
“Azg” also regards this as a very likely scenario. The paper says at least three opposition leaders will not fail to put forward their candidacies. Those are Geghamian, Stepan Demirchian and Vazgen Manukian.
“Yerkir” comments that both the pro-government and opposition camps comprise political forces that have a big experience with switching their allegiances. Those forces are interested in an “irreconcilable” struggle and mutual hostility between the current authorities and their political opponents. This tense atmosphere is vital for their survival.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-born former foreign minister, Raffi Hovannisian, says in separate interviews with “Haykakan Zhamanak” and “Hayots Ashkhar” that he is eligible to run for president. But Hovannisian, who received Armenian citizenship last year, remains evasive about his participation in the February election, promising to clarify his political plans soon. While approving the consolidation of leading opposition groups, Hovannisian makes it clear that “I do not see my participation in that format for the moment.”