“Hayots Ashkhar” takes the view that the Armenian opposition can not get additional votes if it succeeds in fielding a joint presidential candidate, as happened in the September 1996 presidential elections. The only way of achieving that is to come up with credible alternatives to policies pursued by the current authorities. But so far opposition leaders have been vague in explaining what they would do once in government.
One of those leaders, Albert Bazeyan, complains in “Iravunk” that the authorities are now spreading belief that Robert Kocharian has no viable alternative and will easily win the elections in the first round. “The authorities have launched a psychological attack on the society,” Bazeyan says, claiming that various-level government officials have been assigned to secure a particular number of votes for Kocharian. “But the fact is that most people do not trust the current authorities…If the opposition can consolidate and present its single alternative candidate, who will be trusted by the people, in the first round, then we do not rule out the opposition candidate’s victory already in the first round.”
“Iravunk” writes that a key goal of the opposition now is to achieve a run-off vote with Kocharian, while the authorities want to “install” the latter as president after the first round of voting. The paper claims that Kocharian can not garner more than 35 of the vote in the event of a free and fair election. His supporters have to secure the remaining votes “at any cost.” And this is where Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian can play a decisive role. Only his “iron hand” can mobilize the state apparatus. Sarkisian has the authority to severely punish any government official suspected of not doing enough for Kocharian’s victory. He can easily sack just about any official or simply circulate “discrediting material” that would ruin their career.
Both “Iravunk” and “Aravot” pounce on Sarkisian’s latest remark that if Armenian servicemen decide to vote for a presidential candidate backed by the defense minister that will mean that “the army is doing well.” This is construed by “Aravot” as a “frank” acknowledgement that the military will be instructed to vote for Kocharian despite Sarkisian’s assurances of the contrary. According to his logic, if Armenian conscripts vote for someone other than Kocharian that will testify to a poor state of affairs in the armed force, the paper says, adding sarcastically: “One can further develop Mr. Sarkisian’s thought and say: if all Armenian citizens vote the way he wants, that will mean that our society too is doing well.”
“Azg” brings readers’ attention to Republican Party leader Galust Sahakian’s Thursday remark that Artashes Geghamian is the strongest and most “constructive” opposition candidate who will likely be Kocharian’s main rival. A few weeks earlier Sahakian was saying similar things about Levon Ter-Petrosian. The paper speculates that the Republicans do not want to “burn bridges” leading to the opposition and may one day defect from the presidential camp.