Alik Sargsian, governor of Ararat province where government supporters attacked and beat opposition activists on Tuesday, assures “Haykakan Zhamanak” that the violence was instigated by its main victim, parliament deputy Hayk Babukhanian. Sargsian says the attackers simply “resorted to self-defense.” The governor also warns that he "can not guarantee the security” of another opposition candidate, Aram Sarkisian, if the latter too visits the provincial town of Artashat. “I have told more high-ranking bodies that there are people in the province who have problems with him. So there may well be a murder,” the governor says bluntly.
“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” also blames the Artashat violence on President Kocharian’s opponents. The opposition tactics, it says, simply had “boomerang effects.”
But other papers points the finger at the authorities. “Aravot” points out that local police and other authorities did not even attempt to stop the thugs. On the other hand, such incidents hardly benefit Kocharian. “Most probably, the local bosses acted on their own initiative,” the paper writes. Nonetheless, it says, they could eventually be “rewarded” by the regime for their services.
“Ayb-Fe” claims that Stepan Demirchian is emerging as the “undisputed leader” of the presidential race. “Judging by the number of people greeting Stepan Demirchian in any Armenian town or village, the results of the [government] census were not that falsified,” the paper notes.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the Armenian opposition has only a few days to decide whether it will nominate a single presidential candidate. The paper reports that the main opposition candidates will interrupt their campaign trips to hold final discussions on the issue.
According to “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Communist leader Vladimir Darpinian has already decided to drop out of the campaign in Artashes Geghamian’s favor before February 9. A spokesman for Aram Sarkisian, Suren Sureniants, tells the paper that the latter may follow suit. But he says that will happen only if Demirchian and Geghamian reach a mutually acceptable agreement.