“Iravunk” writes that President Kocharian’s election campaign has already run into trouble. His supporters are reported to have serious difficulties collecting signatures in support of his registration as a candidate in the February 19 elections. The cold winter also does not add to Kocharian’s popularity as the authorities are failing to deal with its consequences in a timely and effective manner. For the first time in several years there is a real possibility of power cuts.
“Iravunk” also sees political motives behind the continuing delay with planned supplies of Russian nuclear fuel to the Metsamor nuclear power plant. The paper says Moscow is using the issue to clinch more concessions from Kocharian ahead of the elections. “The legends about the authorities’ unlimited capabilities and invincibility are becoming increasingly exposed,” it says, concluding that Armenians have an opportunity for a “really systemic change of regime” for the first time since 1996.
But according to the pro-presidential “Yerkir,” Kocharian’s victory in the elections is a forgone conclusion. “The public is mainly satisfied with the chosen path of the country’s development, but is not satisfied with the speed of following that path,” the weekly paper writes. That is the main challenge confronting Kocharian.
“Hayots Ashkhar” also portrays the pre-election developments as a “struggle for the second place.” The paper says opposition leader Artashes Geghamian and Stepan Demirchian are the main contenders for that role. It says Geghamian is intellectually superior to Demirchian, but the latter carries his late father’s political charisma. Demirchian also has stronger grassroots structures and more political allies. Geghamian can not even count on the backing of the Armenian Communist Party as most ordinary Communists are sympathetic to Demirchian. In addition, the latter boasts greater financial and propaganda resources.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Demirchian’s HZhK and the Hanrapetutyun party are right to try form a separate “opposition pole,” but thinks that they must steer clear of nationalist rhetoric. “Their new alliance must definitely become an advocate of [Armenia’s] peaceful co-existence with neighbors; must come up with a realistic plan to settle the Karabakh issue,” the paper says. Nothing will save Kocharian if Demirchian, Hanrapetutyun’s Aram Sarkisian and Raffi Hovannisian join forces ahead of the presidential ballot. Vazgen Manukian’s decision to jump on their bandwagon would be “an ideal scenario.” It is Demirchian who should be their joint candidate, “Haykakan Zhamanak” concludes.
But as “Aravot” writes, the opposition “has nothing to say at the moment,” judging from Thursday’s meeting of the coordinating council of its 16-party coalition.