“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” says that Sunday’s local elections attested to increased civic consciousness of Armenians. People now “value their votes” more than they did before. The government-funded daily and other newspapers also accentuate on the electoral triumph of the governing Republican Party (HHK).
The Republicans “have revealed to themselves and other parties their real potential, making at the same time a serious bid for the upcoming presidential and especially parliamentary elections,” writes “Hayots Ashkhar.” The paper says the ballot also showed that the authorities and the public can hold elections “in a calm and dignified manner.” “The elections have proved wrong all those who believe that our people have become totally indifferent to the political struggle and do not believe that it is possible to change things in that way.” But “Hayots Ashkhar” cautions that the Armenian opposition ignored the polls this time and that the next electoral campaigns will therefore be much more tense.
“Orran” says the outcome of the local elections will increase pressure on President Robert Kocharian to give more senior posts to the Republicans. The pro-opposition daily believes that the polls were not fair because they were decided by money and government pressure.
“Or” says the main problem lies in Armenia’s election law which sets no thresholds for voter turn-outs and gives victory to those candidates who get only the plurality of votes. So theoretically, a candidate can become a community head after winning only a dozen votes. This, according to the paper, runs counter to the fundamental principles of democracy. “The results of these elections were, in effect, predetermined, and the people are once again their losers,” the paper concludes.
“Aravot” is also deeply pessimistic. The local elections, it says, demonstrated that next February’s presidential election “will be held with exactly the same and even rougher methods.” The polls must therefore be a wake-up call to the ambitious Armenian opposition.
“The absence of bloodshed does not mean at all that the elections were free and fair,” agrees “Iravunk.” “In many places His Majesty the Vote Bribe was the decisive factor. Some candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the elections.” The paper also believes that Kocharian will now have to rely on Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his Republicans even more heavily.
“He will not be able to ignore them because otherwise he would lose a substantial part of administrative capacities at the local level,” “Iravunk” explains. “In fact, Andranik Markarian has managed to strengthen his positions so much that he has become almost irreplaceable for Robert Kocharian. As a result of his consistent work in the last two and a half years, Markarian has succeeded in giving the Republican Party the status of a kingmaker, with which anyone willing to come to power has to reckon.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says that back in May 2000, when Markarian was appointed prime minister, Kocharian could hardly expect that his reelection as president will greatly depend on Markarian. The latter has now no reason to fear being sacked. “And after these elections the idea of becoming Armenia’s president will not seem to him strange and far-fetched,” the paper says. “If it was possible to make Black Gago (the nickname of businessman Gagik Beglarian) head of the Kentron community [in Yerevan], who would say that it is not possible to make Prime Minister Markarian a president?”