“Orran” comments that the authorities’ claims that Stepan Demirchian is too weak to debate with President Robert Kocharian proved on Monday wrong when the two candidates met in a state television studio.
“The [authorities’] entire false and slanderous propaganda noise burst like a bubble before our eyes,” concedes “Iravunk.”
In a related commentary titled “Seven against one,” “Ayb-Fe” notes that Kocharian was in an “advantaged position” because the debate took place on his own terms. “But everything turned upside down on the air. The debate poured cold water on those who gloated before then.”
“Orran” says Armenians will face a serious test on March 5, calling it “the day of days.” The paper urges voters not to succumb to “fear and servility.”
“The competition will be serious indeed,” writes “Iravunk.” The paper says the outcome of the vote is “unpredictable,” with the two candidates having “almost equal chances.” It also claims that opposition members of election commissions are facing strong pressure from the authorities. “At this stage, the emphasis will most probably be put on those who count the votes, and some preparatory work has already been done to ensure that the opposition commissioners and proxies are isolated during the vote count stage. But all that does not mean that mass falsifications will necessarily be carried out. The thing is that both European observers and the U.S. State Department took a very tough stand against the first-round fraud and post-election government pressure and arrests.”
But as Armenia’s deputy police chief, Hovannes Varian, tells “Hayots Ashkhar,” it is the opposition that will likely attempt to “hamper” Wednesday’s voting. “All necessary measures will be taken within the framework of the law to maintain law and order,” Varian warns.
Commenting on the possible outcome of the run-off, “Hayots Ashkhar” notes that the Armenian “electorate is as unpredictable as a female driver.” “Everything is possible,” the paper says. “Especially in our wondrous country.”
“Aravot” speculates that political parties supporting Kocharian are primarily concerned with securing seats in the next Armenian parliament. “If the results of the first round were not so controversial, if the authorities did not resort to threats and arrests…those parties’ hopes could have proved justified. But today one can not even speak of that.” The pro-Kocharian parties may thus fail to win the May parliamentary elections.
“Golos Armenii” says the next Armenian government must map out programs that will prevent “a further growth in public discontent and the country’s plunge into chaos.” The pro-presidential paper reckons that the key problem facing the Armenian economy is the “extreme monopolization” of imports of fuel and basic foodstuffs into the country. It admits that those monopolies have “government sponsors” and undermine the authorities’ standing. “Golos Armenii” also effectively urges the Kocharian administration to “reconsider [its] staffing policy.”