“Aravot” runs the full text of its interview with former Interior Minister Suren Abrahamian, who is now very critical of the authorities. “Unlike the opposition, the authorities have long been preparing for the presidential elections in earnest. They have been taking practical steps for more than a year,” Abrahamian says. Splits inside several opposition parties were orchestrated by the authorities and are part of those preparations, according to him. But Abrahamian says the government’s propaganda machine is not achieving its goals as opposition leaders like Artashes Geghamian and Stepan Demirchian have real chances of victory. “My contacts with the people, common sense and analyses lead me to conclude that there will definitely be two rounds [of voting],” he says.
Demirchian, meanwhile, again assures “Haykakan Zhamanak” that it is “premature” to speak of the collapse of the 16-party opposition union. “I am convinced that the opposition will have a strong and victorious candidate,” he says, dismissing recent opinion polls that show President Kocharian in the lead. Those are “just a backdrop for election fraud,” Demirchian says. “Even without those polls it is evident that the overwhelming majority of people do not believe that free and fair elections are possible in this country.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the leadership of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) remains divided over whether to form an electoral alliance with Geghamian. The party’s leader, Vladimir Darpinian, is keen to team up with Geghamian over the objections of other top Communists.
The party’s second secretary, Sanatruk Sahakian, tells “Iravunk” that the HKK should not form a “popular-patriotic bloc” with Geghamian just because it would comprise the Socialist Armenia alliance led by another outspoken oppositionist, Ashot Manucharian. “Who doesn’t know that he is carrying out orders of special services?” Sahakian says.
“Hayots Ashkhar” comments that Armenia needs to have a “legitimate” president if it is to meet serious international challenges in the next five years. And yet many opposition politicians, according to the paper, show their readiness to become “tools for external pressure” by challenging the legitimacy of Kocharian’s election victory.
“Iravunk” speculates that Kocharian will primarily rely on his “administrative and power levers” in his question for a second term in office. He will also count on the support of the country’s wealthy business elite. As for the pro-presidential parties, “they will mainly play the role of a political smokescreen for those elections.” “It appears that Robert Kocharian does not want to owe his reelection to the parties, especially the Republicans, and assume any major obligations with regard to them,” the paper says. In doing so, Kocharian will risk alienating those parties -- something which would make it easier for the opposition to win the presidency.