By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s 16 leading opposition parties accused President Robert Kocharian late on Thursday of resorting to illegal methods to ensure his victory in the February 19 elections.
An umbrella structure uniting the parties claimed in three separate statements that the incumbent is exerting “strong pressure” on the Central Election Commission (CEC) and has placed top security officials in charge of his reelection campaign across the country. It also denounced the Kocharian-controlled state television and radio for airing news reports “glorifying” the president before official start of campaigning.
One of the statements specifically deplores the influential Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s appointment as Kocharian’s campaign manager. Its says Sarkisian has instructed the entire security apparatus to ensure Kocharian’s reelection at any cost.
The Armenian president, who hopes to win the ballot already in the first round of voting, has repeatedly pledged to make sure that it meets democratic standards. He has also denied any interference in the electoral process.
Still, the opposition holds him responsible for the CEC’s decision on Wednesday not to register one of its popular figures, Raffi Hovannisian, as a presidential candidate. The body argued that Hovannisian has not been an Armenian citizen for the last ten years.
The 16-party opposition grouping is due to issue another statement on Friday urging the CEC to reverse Kocharian’s registration on the same grounds. Its leaders claim that that he became an Armenian national only in 1998.