“Aravot” carries the results of an opinion poll in Yerevan conducted by the non-governmental Armenian Center for Electoral Systems after the first round of the elections. About 37 percent of those polled said they voted for Stepan Demirchian, while just over 26 percent of them said they voted for Robert Kocharian. Asked for whom they will vote on March5 , about 56 percent named Demirchian, and only 27 percent Kocharian. The survey also predicts a higher voter turnout in the run-off.
“The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia voted for Demirchian,” “Aravot” claims in an editorial. The paper says although it thinks Demirchian lacks the qualities for running the country, “that is the choice of our people which must be sacredly respected.” Kocharian, it says, has only 20 percent support. “He should blame only himself for that. Kocharian’s electorate will probably shrink because part of it will be disappointed with the incumbent’s behavior in recent weeks. The incumbent president must accept his defeat with dignity, like a real man and warrior, while the president elect must give Kocharian all the guarantees of security and immunity. But if Kocharian decides after all to foist himself upon the people and run the country with Choyts and Shmayses (nicknames of two pro-Kocharian local bosses), hardly anyone will envy such a president.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the authorities’ attempts to cling to power by creating “an atmosphere of fear” have failed. The paper says that the “mass arrests” of opposition activists failed to reduce huge crowds rallying for Demirchian. “The wave of protests will grow further in the coming days,” it predicts.
“People demanding fairness and justice must not be called a crowd,” writes “Orran.” “They have only one demand: the criminals must be punished and he who enjoys the trust of the majority [of the people] must get his due.”
“Iravunk” compares the government’s latest actions to the behavior of a fatally wounded beast. Both are “devoid of any logic.” The authorities make ridiculous accusations that it is the opposition which engaged in ballot box stuffing. The paper also reckons that the intensifying Kocharian propaganda disseminated by state television is counterproductive and will only backfire.
According to “Azg,” the reason why Kocharian failed to win in the first round was a lack of coordination in the spread of his message by various pro-presidential forces. “Apart from the preparation and coverage of the president’s pre-election visits and distribution of his campaign posters, no propaganda was in essence carried out.” The pro-presidential paper also rebukes the Kocharian campaign for its heavy reliance on unpopular senior government officials. It admits that so-called “neighborhood mobsters,” widely blamed for many vote irregularities, were not held in check during the voting. That too damaged Kocharian’s standing.
“Hayots Ashkhar” dismisses the opposition rallies as a “blackmail” masterminded by some leaders of the Yerkrapah Union and allies of Levon Ter-Petrosian. The paper says government warnings forced opposition leaders to tone down their tough rhetoric. It concludes that “nothing can save the radicals” from defeat on March 5.
In a commentary titled “Geghamian games,” “Aravot” suggests that the presidential team is pinning its last hopes on one of their most bitter critics. It points to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s February 20 remark that the opposition will not come up with a single candidate even for the run-off.
“Artashes Geghamian is the authorities’ hope,” concedes “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The paper supporting Demirchian claims that Geghamian has born out speculation that he his Kocharian’s and Serzh Sarkisian’s Trojan horse inside the opposition.
“Geghamian’s electorate has already transferred its vote to Stepan Demirchian,” writes “Orran.” “As a result, neither Kocharian nor the people will forgive Geghamian.”