Some Armenian newspapers are not convinced by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s assurances that his expected appointment as head of Robert Kocharian’s election campaign will not draw the military into the electoral process. “Aravot,” “Haykakan Zhamanak” and “Orran” say they do not trust the powerful minister.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says both Kocharian and Raffi Hovannisian are not eligible to run in the presidential elections, arguing that they have not been Armenian nationals long enough. The paper predicts that the Central Election Commission will register both men because otherwise it would have to somehow rationalize its refusal. “In that case, the legitimacy of Kocharian’s nomination will be called into question.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” claims that after Levon Ter-Petrosian’s refusal to run for president Hovannisian and Stepan Demirchian will vie for the status of the main opposition candidate. They will be seeking to “prove that there exists a political alternative to the existing authorities.” Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), according to the paper, will now pin its hopes on Demirchian. As for Hovannisian, his main mission is to create “noise around the legitimacy of the incumbent president.”
A top aide to another opposition leader, Artashes Geghamian, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that Geghamian’s National Unity party and its electoral allies, the Communists and the Socialist Armenia bloc, have already agreed on the distribution of government posts in the event of their victory. Aleksan Karapetian says Geghamian does not want to control the so-called power ministries. He instead wants to concentrate on “macroeconomic issues.”
An extensive analysis in “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” sums up Geghamian’s political career with the following sarcastic headline: “From Communist atheism to biblical populism.” The paper thereby accentuates on Geghamian’s Communist past and ridicules his current frequent references to the main tenets of Christianity. It also describes him as “an unreliable partner even in his own camp.” “The political career of this politician began from his nomination [in 1998] as a presidential candidate and will presumably end in the same manner.”
“Aravot” laments the absence of any “fresh” ideas to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the discourse of the opposition candidates. And yet Karabakh is the fundamental problem facing Armenia. The oppositionists’ economic recipes are also vague and “populist.” “There are no politicians who can offer a real alternative to the current political line. Therefore, Robert Kocharian has good chances of winning a clean election, but only in the second round.” Kocharian, the paper says, must restrain the zeal of his numerous supporters who want to keep him in power at any cost.
Newspapers also report on Wednesday’s shootout in Yerevan’s Davitashen district which left one person, a nephew of parliament deputy Ruben Gevorgian, dead. “Haykakan Zhamanak” claims that it was part of a commercial dispute between Gevorgian and businessman Samvel Aleksanian. The paper links the incident to the November 5 attack on Davitashen’s chief executive which was blamed on Aleksanian’s supporters. Law-enforcement authorities took no action at the time.