“Barbed wire is the last hope,” reads the headline to a front-page “Aravot” story about Wednesday’s stand-off between opposition protesters and riot police. The paper says that the Soviet authorities deployed far more troops back in 1988, but even that did not stem the wave of popular anger against the then ruling regime. “Facing the people now is a much weaker state machine which will not be able to do anything if the people wish to take care of ballots cast by them in the presidential elections.”
“The authorities preferred to act with threats, demonstration bans and arrests, stripping the citizens of their constitutional right to express their will,” “Aravot” writes in a separate commentary. “If the authorities think that they ensure civil obedience with such methods, they are mistaken.” The paper claims that the authorities are “preparing to publish half a million additional [bogus] ballots” ahead of next week’s run-off. “The chairpersons of election commission will have to try to stuff them into ballot boxes.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says participants of Wednesday’s opposition rally were not clearly told whether Stepan Demirchian will be contesting the March 5 second round. “The opposition leaders have not taken a final decision regarding this.” Some of them are prone to boycotting it because “steps taken by the authorities show that they have no intention to renounce vote rigging.” “According to our information, the international community is urging the opposition to go into the second round and is guaranteeing that it will do everything possible to make sure that the election results are real. But at this moment, the united opposition is faced with a difficult choice.” With many of Demirchian’s proxies now in jail, it will be more difficult for the opposition to avert fraud. On the other hand, a boycott would give Kocharian grounds to declare himself president.
“Golos Armenii” says that Demirchian has not come up with any credible policy solution, capitalizing only on his “royal origin.” The Russian-language paper, which was called “Kommunist” in the Soviet times, brings readers’ attention to numerous negative phenomena that existed in the 1970s and 1980s when his father, Karen Demirchian, was in control. It also attacks Demirchian’s “exotic” entourage that entered the parliament in 1999 and is now standing by Stepan.
Writing in “Haykakan Zhamanak,” an author who is believed to be the fugitive former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, renews his scathing criticism of opposition leader Artashes Geghamian. “In reality, Geghamian does not desire any power. He can not desire anything because he is not a demanding side. It is his masters who want something from him.” The author, identified as Avetis Harutiunian, claims that Geghamian did not win 17 percent of the vote as is shown by official figures. He says the only way the opposition can oust Kocharian in a clean election is to keep its supporters on the streets until March 5 and for “two or three more days” after it because “they will rig.”
“Orran” likewise continues to accuse Geghamian of being a Trojan horse planted inside the opposition camp. “Switching from his image of a bitter Kocharian foe to the image of an honest peace-maker, Geghamian has made it clear to his electorate that they should boycott the second round of the elections.” If they take his advice, they will damage Demirchian, not Kocharian, the paper argues.
“Hayots Ashkhar” writes that Demirchian’s presidential bid is backed by “those Western political circles that have a vested interest in resolving the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor, creating a Turkey-Azerbaijan corridor and driving Russia out of the region.” Demirchian’s rise to power “corresponds to Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s vital interests,” the paper concludes.