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By Armen Zakarian
President Robert Kocharian sounded on Tuesday confident of winning a second term in office as he was officially nominated by Armenia’s ruling establishment as a candidate in the February 19 presidential elections.

About 300 government officials, government-connected businesspeople and intellectuals as well as representatives of pro-presidential parties lavished praise on the incumbent, saying that his five-year rule has been a success. The participants make up a “group of civic initiative” which, under Armenia’s election law, can put forward presidential candidates.

“I can see that with this team it is impossible to lose the elections,” Kocharian declared in his acceptance speech, which presented his track record in a positive light.

Complaining about a heavy legacy inherited from his predecessor, Kocharian claimed that he has succeeded in reversing Armenia’s economic decline and expediting political reform. “The country has entered a period of sustainable development, and that is what matters,” he said.

Kocharian added that the Armenian economy will grow by 12 percent this year and that Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe under his leadership.

The meeting of the initiative group, held at the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, was chaired by the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, in a further indication that he will become Kocharian’s campaign manager. Among members of its presidium were representatives of several pro-presidential parties, including the Republican Party (HHK), Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir.

Speakers addressing the gathering saved no words to extol Kocharian’s accomplishments, leading the latter to note jokingly that “I get the impression that I’m better than I used think of myself.” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, for example, described Kocharian as an “individual who does not know defeat.”

Incidentally, some participants of the pre-election meeting had actively campaigned for the former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s reelection in 1996.

In his speech, Kocharian also said that he has had “real possibilities of governance” only in the last three years, arguing that he had spent most of his time and energy on crisis management during the first two years of his presidency. The remark was an indirect reference to the October 1999 parliament killings and ensured government infighting.

It was also an acknowledgement of the fact that Kocharian’s power had been seriously limited by Vazgen Sarkisian, the former defense and prime minister killed in the parliament massacre.

(Fotolur photo: Robert Kocharian, left, and Serzh Sarkisian attending the nomination meeting.)
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