By Armen Zakarian
The leader of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK), Vladimir Darpinian, dismissed on Friday growing speculation that it will fail to win any parliament seats in this month's elections.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Darpinian said the HKK's low-key election campaign should not be construed as an indication of its eroding appeal to thousands of people who have elected its members to Armenia's three post-Soviet parliaments.
"We have a stable electoral base," he said. "Between 70 and 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. So the people should vote for the Communists."
According to opinion polls published in the Armenian media, the HKK may fail to win at least 5 percent of the vote required to win parliament seats under the system of proportional representation. Darpinian, who had served as Soviet Armenia's interior minister in the 1970s, rejected the credibility of the polls, saying that they are commissioned by "those who want to deceive the people."
The staunchly pro-Russian party, which promises to restore state control of the economy, polled an average of 10 percent of votes in elections held in Armenia
since 1995, capitalizing on widespread public disillusionment with the market reforms. It has been weakened by a series of internal rifts in recent years.
As recently as last March, Darpinian was accused by several prominent Communists of secretly cooperating with President Robert Kocharian. The accusations, strongly rebutted by the HKK leader, were also implicitly endorsed by Armenia's main opposition alliance led by Stepan Demirchian, Kocharian's main challenger in the recent presidential election.
The HKK leadership had initially endorsed Demirchian ahead of the March 5 run-off, but then suddenly changed its position, telling supporters to boycott the vote.