“The Russian factor is becoming more and more important in the Armenian presidential elections,” writes “Iravunk,” pointing to President Kocharian’s visit to Moscow which it says “was most probably initiated by Yerevan.” As for the United States, the paper believes that it wants Kocharian to get reelected, “but not in a legitimate way.” A weak Kocharian, it says, will be more vulnerable to U.S. pressure. Especially on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” on the other hand, urges local commentators and the media to stop looking at the latest Russian-Armenian dealings through the prism of the upcoming elections. “Russia needs such a government in Armenia which exists today,” the pro-Kocharian paper says.
“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” comments that the Armenian opposition is increasingly split between two candidates: Artashes Geghamian and Stepan Demirchian. Therefore, neither of them will have a mandate to represent the entire opposition in the elections.
“Yerkir” writes that the issue of a single opposition candidate is being “finally driven out of the agenda of political discussions.” The weekly paper also says that election platforms of most candidates look like “drinking toasts.”
“Aravot” says the results of the Central Election Commission’s Wednesday vote on Raffi Hovannisian’s registration shows that the Armenian Communists “work for the authorities.” “Their candidate, Vladimir Darpinian, is just a figure taking away other candidates’ votes.” Another ostensibly opposition candidate, Aram Karapetian, has not “permanently” lived in Armenia for the last ten years. And yet he was registered as a presidential candidate. This fact leads the paper to conclude that Karapetian too enjoys government backing. “Our Central Election Commission is not an independent, democratic structure, but a body working for the current authorities.”
Communist lawmaker Gagik Tadevosian confirms in “Hayots Ashkhar” that Darpinian has decided to withdraw his candidacy in favor of Geghamian. But he says the Communist leader is formally staying in the race for the time being so that he can use airtime provided by state television free of charge. Darpinian will urge Communists and their supporters to vote for Geghamian.
“Aravot” claims that a deal by five leading private television stations to set a joint minimum price for campaign advertisements was “dictated” by the presidential administration.
“It is obvious that the decision was taken against the 16-party [opposition] alliance,” agrees “Haykakan Zhamanak.” Interestingly, Tigran Karapetian, the owner of one of the private networks, specifies that it was made “at the urging of Grigor Amalian,” chairman of the controversial state commission on television and radio.
“I insist that Tigran Naghdalian was killed by the authorities and that they are prepared to sacrifice more of their people in order to cover up their crimes,” a leader of the Socialist Armenia alliance, Manuk Gasparian, tells “Ayb-Fe.” He alleges that Naghdalian’s killing was aimed at “discrediting the opposition.”
“Yerkir” reports that the infamous detention center of the National Security Service, the former KGB, has finally been placed under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Justice Ministry. According to “Haykakan Zhamanak,” the high-security jail currently has 19 inmates, including the leader of the parliament gunmen, Nairi Hunanian.