A weekly opinion poll published by “Aravot” indicates no serious changes in the popularity rankings of top presidential candidates. About 25 percent of respondents in Yerevan continue to support President Robert Kocharian. Raffi Hovannisian has 7 percent, while Stepan Demirchian and Artashes Geghamian share the third place with 5 percent each. About 40 percent of respondents are undecided.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Kocharian’s approval ratings hover between 20 percent and 30 percent. But the paper says the opinion polls fail to take into account “the atmosphere of fear and mistrust” among the voters. It also believes that Kocharian’s popularity is “quite low” these days. Demirchian and Geghamian can together garner 30 percent of the vote. “But that figure may well reach 65 percent, especially in the second round [of the elections].” “Haykakan Zhamanak” also says that only Demirchian can beat Kocharian in a run-off vote.
Sociologist Hranush Kharatian tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that the very existence of 15 presidential candidates “devaluates” the post of Armenian president. If at least ten of them manage to collect 40,000 signatures that will testify to the public’s indifference toward the polls. Kharatian does not see “serious rivals” to Kocharian despite his numerous drawbacks. “The incumbent president has surrounded himself with people who are doing everything to obstruct his contacts with people. I wonder if the president knows how people are intimidated into not raising serious issues before their planned meetings with him,” she says.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says that unlike in 1998, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not be a major issue during this election campaign. Most Armenians are more preoccupied with their socioeconomic problems. “So our presidential elections promise to take place in a much more positive political atmosphere than in Azerbaijan which is in acute need of a [military] revanche.” Karabakh will be a “stabilizing factor” in Armenia, and a “destabilizing factor” in Azerbaijan, according to the newspaper.
“Golos Armenii” carries Kocharian’s answers to its readers’ written questions. Kocharian indicates that the elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan will seriously complicate progress in the Karabakh peace process next year. Asked whether he is a “lonely person in politics,” Kocharian replies: “Probably that impression stems from my behavior. I don’t hide behind anyone’s back, don’t look for scapegoats to justify myself. I shoulder responsibility even in those situations where I could have distanced myself. That might leave the impression that there is nobody defending the president.”