The reaction of Armenian newspapers to the weekend congress of Artashes Geghamian's National Unity party is overwhelmingly negative. "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" attacks Geghamian for his harsh criticism of the media and accuses him of establishing a "personality cult" in his party.
"Aravot" ridicules National Unity activists for competing with each other in extolling Geghamian's virtues. But Geghamian says there is nothing bad about it. Pointing to pro-government media's positive coverage of Robert Kocharian and his programs, Geghamian asks: "If that rubbish gets so much praise, then why shouldn't one praise our program and its author?"
"Azg" sticks to the widely held belief that Geghamian is a "landmine in the opposition camp." "It was clear from the outset that this congress will be pivotal in terms of unmasking the 16-party [opposition] alliance's attemp to imitate unity," the paper writes.
"Orran" says Geghamian's nomination for the Armenian presidency symbolizes the dominance of the Armenian political arena by populist politicians.
"Or" similarly notes that Geghamian is keen to improve his poor showing in the previous presidential election (he received less than 1 percent of the vote in 1998) with "speeches containing a big dose of populism." "But his constant attempts to achieve results single-handedly may prove to be fateful for him. There has never been a team around this politician. Weak parties, constant squabbles inside [his] parliamentary faction and non-compliance with alliance rules. This is what Geghamian is all about," the paper says. "Can he become a single [opposition] candidate? Hardly."
"Haykakan Zhamanak" says the opposition coalition has decided to call off its rally scheduled for October 18. The paper, again accentuating on the pro-Russian stance of many opposition parties, speculates that the decision is the result of agreements reached by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in Moscow last week.
"Iravunk" comments that judging from recent opinion polls, Kocharian can not poll more than 40 percent of the vote in the first round of the February election. "It is becoming more and more obvious that a second round of the presidential election is inevitable. And in the run-off vote, both the state apparatus and the oligarchs will back the incumbent president only at half of their capacity." So if the opposition parties do not "tear each other to pieces" and if they close ranks behind their most popular leader, they will have a real possibility of ousting Kocharian from office.
"Hayots Ashkhar," on the other hand, maintains that Kocharian is the only "real" presidential candidate and the opposition stands no chance of winning the election. "It is thus becoming evident that there will be no need for a second round," the pro-Kocharian daily says, adding that "the people do not see an alternative" to the current president.