“Aravot” reminds the authorities of the following things which they can not do on the voting day. “It is illegal to steal ballot boxes; beat or insult monitors, candidates’ proxies or journalists. Refrain from doing that even if you have a great desire. We also advise against stuffing ballot boxes with stacks of ballots or falsify vote protocols at any level,” the paper writes, warning that punishment of vote rigging is “inevitable after all.”
But “Golos Armenii” counters that the current authorities are very tolerant of dissent. “The more liberal a government is, the more it is slandered and accused of creating an atmosphere of fear,” it says. The paper assures readers that the February 19 vote will be “the most fair and free in independent Armenia’s history.” Kocharian should be allowed “to finish the work which he began” five years ago.
“Orran,” encouraged by Stepan Demirchian’s Friday trip to the Gegharkunik province, declares that the outcome of the vote is a forgone conclusion. The paper claims that Demirchian will easily defeat incumbent Robert Kocharian.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” is also stunned by the way local residents greeted Kocharian. “Popular affection toward Stepan Demirchian is transforming into a religious faith,” the paper says. The People’s Party leader enjoys a real “personality cult” in Gegharkunik.
“Look carefully at Stepan Demirchian to understand what kind of a president the country must not have,” attacks “Hayots Ashkhar.” The paper argues that throughout the election campaign Demirchian has not explained what he would like to do if he is elected president. His speeches and platform are extremely general and ambiguous, and he “stubbornly” refuses to go into details. “Stepan Demirchian is, in effect, the weakest of all presidential candidates remaining in contention in terms of political skills and intellect. Using the people’s mythical memories of his father and playing on the people’s naïve feelings and emotions, Stepan Demirchian is turning the entire electoral process into a farce,” “Hayots Ashkhar” concludes alarmingly.
One of Demirchian’s closest allies, parliament deputy Shavarsh Kocharian, tells “Orran” that the election campaign has confounded the self-confident authorities. “The authorities always hoped that the people have been broken and have come to terms with the rules of the game imposed on them,” he says. “But this rising wave [of popular indignation] was a surprise even for myself.”
Sociologist Hranush Kharatian, by contrast, is convinced that the majority of Armenians will vote for Kocharian. Interviewed by “Hayots Ashkhar,” she forecasts that the voter turn-out could be as high as 70 percent.