“Iravunk” denounces the spate of election commission decisions barring opposition candidates from contesting the upcoming elections. The paper believes that they were ordered by the government. It says President Robert Kocharian has drawn up a “black list” of opposition politicians whom he does not want to see in the next parliament.
One of them, Vartan Mkrtchian, tells “Aravot” that the authorities are “trying to get rid of unwanted candidates before the elections.” “Courts are handing down unfounded rulings favoring pro-government candidates,” he claims.
“Iravunk” also discusses the disqualification of another opposition leader, Aram Karapetian. “Does that mean that Aram Karapetian has permanently lived in Armenia for the last ten, but not five, years?” the paper asks, branding the decision an “utter absurdity.” Karapetian is quoted as saying that he will appeal the decision in the court. Even Galust Sahakian, a leader of the governing Republican Party (HHK), has a “very negative” assessment of Karapetian’s disqualification. “I think that such a solution, at least from the political viewpoint, was not expedient,” Sahakian says.
Covering the Republican Party’s election campaign, “Hayots Ashkhar” quotes Prime Minister Andranik Markarian as saying that the HHK is “prepared to win in an honest struggle.” Markarian also warns his opponents against “punching us below the waist.” He also believes that Armenia is “little by little” emerging from its post-Soviet economic slump. Another top Republican candidate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, says the parliamentary elections must not turn into a “confrontation.” “But I think that these elections too will see confrontation,” Sarkisian adds.
“Serzh Sarkisian is becoming interesting,” comments “Orran.” The paper finds remarkable Sarkisian’s direct involvement in the parliamentary race. It says his presence in the HHK ranks will inevitably “offset the Dashnak mentality” in the Armenian leadership.
In an interview with “Haykakan Zhamanak,” opposition leader Aram Sarkisian slams Kocharian for saying that the pro-presidential parties must have a “substantial majority” in the parliament. Sarkisian says Kocharian should have instead pledged to ensure the freedom and fairness of the elections. “With such statements, he simply gave his loyal forces yet another assurances that they can act the way they did during the presidential elections,” Sarkisian claims.
“Hayots Ashkhar” deplores “primitive propaganda against the authorities” voiced by the opposition parties in their campaign advertisements. The paper says “everybody is bored” of the renewed pre-election rhetoric “with all its familiar details.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” carries the results of an opinion poll in Yerevan which gives Stepan Demirchian’s Artarutyun bloc 15.5 percent support, the pro-Kocharian Orinats Yerkir party 10.5 percent, Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity 6.5 percent, Dashnaktsutyun 4.2 percent and the HHK only 3.2 percent.