By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Three leading political parties that control the Armenian parliament reaffirmed Friday their loyalty to President Robert Kocharian, playing down implications of his worse-than-expected performance in Wednesday’s presidential election.
Leaders of the governing Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir said they are confident that Kocharian will defeat opposition leader Stepan Demirchian in the March 5 run-off. Speaking to RFE/RL, they also rejected opposition claims that the results of the first-round ballot were falsified.
“If they had indeed been falsified, then, according to the opposition’s logic, Kocharian would have received 53 or 54 percent of the vote, not 49.8 percent,” argued Orinats Yerkir chairman Artur Baghdasarian.
Vahan Hovannisian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader and senior parliamentarian, also insisted that there was no vote rigging. “We sat with the president all night [after the closure of polls] and saw all the incoming information,” he said. “I can say proudly that the president didn’t even doubt that [a run-off] should the solution.”
Both Hovannisian and a leading HHK member, Tigran Torosian, brushed aside the jubilant mood reigning in the opposition ranks. Torosian said Kocharian’s performance was an “obvious success.” He dismissed speculation that influential members of the presidential team, many of whom are affiliated with the HHK, could defect to Demirchian before the second round.
Some local analysts say that with a regime change in Yerevan now looking more likely, various-level government officials will not campaign for Kocharian’s reelection with the vigor they demonstrated during the election campaign. They prompted opposition allegations, partly backed by international election observers, that the incumbent is illegally using government resources for reelection purposes.
Hovannisian, naming no names, blamed some of those officials for Kocharian’s failure to win the majority of votes. He said the Kocharian campaign should now stop relying on unidentified “people who don’t have much authority with the people.”
Kocharian’s powerful campaign chief, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, admitted the previous night that his team made some mistakes and should change its strategy. But he would not specify what those changes will be.