“Haykakan Zhamanak” and “Orran” report that Robert Kocharian’s likely election campaign spokesman, Vahagn Mkrtchian, used to be an important figure in the “former regime” hated by many of the current president’s supporters. Mkrtchian had actively campaigned for former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s reelection in September 1996 and ran the parliament’s press service for many years. The papers quote him as saying that Kocharian’s campaign strategy has not yet been decided and that Kocharian’s allies are still discussing what image he should project to the voters.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” meanwhile, maintains that Kocharian has been an Armenian citizen and lived in Armenia for the past ten years, a key requirement for the registration of presidential candidates. The pro-presidential paper claims that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Armenia, arguing that a 1989 reunification act by Soviet Armenia’s Supreme Soviet remains in force.
“Aravot” makes the point that Kocharian does not need the backing of any political force, non-governmental organization, intellectuals or the media because “he is supported by the army, police, national security ministry, tax inspectorate and all palace businessmen.” “In Armenia, all that is absolutely enough to be reelected president,” the paper writes. It says the endless declarations of support by loyal political parties are needed by Kocharian to “create the illusion of a political process.” Also, those who pander to him hope to get favors from the regime after the elections.
“There are so many supporters that the president will face a difficult choice after February 20: what should be given to whom. The country is small and poor, and the goodies scarce,” Aravot” continues. “So it is possible that some people will be left unpaid.”
In an interview with “Aravot,” Suren Abrahamian, the former interior minister, renews bitter attacks on Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. “Usually, people love me but surrender to Serzh. I don’t see anything bad in that though, because Serzh pays very well. The only thing deserving condemnation is that he pays for his pleasures from the common budget.”
Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the parliament and a leading member of the Republican Party, believes that the show of support for Kocharian by numerous political and non-political groups is often contrived and not quite altruistic. “Those individuals and organizations are active due to certain expectations [from the government],” Torosian tells “Aravot.” He says Kocharian should “restrain” their zeal if he is to ensure a smooth reelection. That is even more important than fighting the opposition, according to Torosian.
Sociologist and pollster Gevorg Poghosian says tells “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” that only four Armenian politicians have real chances of winning the February election. Those are Kocharian, Stepan Demirchian, Artashes Geghamian and Raffi Hovannisian. He also claims that Kocharian’s approval ratings are much higher than the three other candidates’.