In its last editorial of 2002 titled “There will be no miracles,” “Aravot” writes: “The outcome of next year’s presidential elections is predictable. The regime will reproduce itself. It is obvious that Armenia will not have a regime change as a result of elections in the foreseeable future. The authorities in Armenia have and will continue to have administrative and power levers to turn elections into mere formalities. Our society has neither the capacity nor the desire to challenge that.”
“Aravot” also carries the results of an opinion, according to which 23 percent of Yerevan residents feel that they and their families have become better off over the past year. Thirty-eight percent of respondents see no significant changes in their life, while the remaining 31 percent say things have gotten worse. About half of people covered by the survey expect 2003 to be a better year.
National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukian tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that the broad-based opposition coalition, of which his party is a member, “has already exhausted itself.” Manukian does not trust opinion polls showing that he is unlikely to make a strong showing in the presidential elections. “Naturally, they have to give Kocharian high percentage points to cover up possible falsifications. Besides, the authorities want to select a convenient rival from the opposite camp by means of sociological surveys,” Manukian says. “That is, a man who can be easily defeated.”
Newspapers supporting President Kocharian say that Raffi Hovannisian stands no chance of securing official registration as a presidential candidate. “Azg” dismisses arguments in favor of his eligibility, saying that, under Armenian law, a foreigner must first renounce his previous citizenship before applying for an Armenian passport. “Mr. Hovannisian officially abandoned U.S. citizenship only on April 23, 2001,” the paper says.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says maintaining the hard-won political stability is more important for the Armenian authorities than achieving an electoral victory. The paper bases this point on a claim that Kocharian will easily win a second term in office. A clean vote and a positive judgment by international monitors will be enough for his legitimacy. The Armenian opposition, unable to beat him in an honest struggle, now claims to be persecuted by the authorities in a bid to rationalize its imminent defeat. All they want to do, according to “Hayots Ashkhar,” is to destabilize the political situation in the country. The authorities should respond to that with “utmost tolerance and restraint.”