“Kocharian’s propaganda machine is aiming to show how underdeveloped the opposition is and make us come to terms with a belief that there is no alternative to Kocharian,” writes “Aravot.” “In this sense, the president has a broad choice because the majority of print media are under his control. Electronic media are also pro-presidential without any exception. After the closure of A1+ even those local TV companies that aspired to being more or less impartial have to work to Kocharian’s benefit. In sum, everybody is ready to serve.”
Former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian similarly complains in “Haykakan Zhamanak” that the media is “effectively inaccessible to the opposition.” He says opposition parties have trouble presenting their programs to the electorate. “All television companies are closed to the opposition. As for a number of opposition newspapers, their combined circulation is about 15,000. And they practically do not reach the provinces.” Harutiunian also denies speculation that there are “Trojan horses” inside the opposition camp carrying out Kocharian’s secret orders.
But as “Haykakan Zhamanak” reports, one of the 16 opposition parties operating under a common umbrella structure, National Unity, has netted a senior post in the Shirak provincial administration for its local leader. Some oppositionists believe that the appointment testifies to National Unity leader Artashes Geghamian’s secret ties with the regime. The paper makes a far-reaching forecast that Geghamian too will defect to the Kocharian camp once he is offered a top government post.
“Iravunk” writes that as elections approach thousands of Armenian government officials agonize over how to make sure that they keep their posts after the polls. On the one hand, they fear disobeying Kocharian’s orders to ensure his victory in the February presidential election. On the other, “nobody can give 100 percent guarantees that Robert Kocharian will retain his presidential post.” Even the opposition parties are not averse to accepting government posts in exchange for supporting Kocharian. There are already cases where opposition candidates for local elections pull out of the race after getting similar perks from the incumbent local government heads.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says that the Republican, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties will officially endorse Kocharian’s reelection bid in late October or early November. About that time the opposition National Unity and the People’s Party (HZhK) will put forward their leaders’ candidacy for the presidential election.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that Central Bank chairman Tigran Sarkisian contradicted Kocharian on Monday when he argued that the upcoming elections will have a positive impact on the Armenian economy because of increased spending by thousands of candidates. (Kocharian has on the contrary argued that a prolonged presidential race would hurt the economy.) The paper estimates that parliamentary candidates alone may spend $20 million on their election campaigns. The presidential election will probably require even greater expenditures.