Artashes Geghamian's National Unity party may well grab 30 percent of the vote in the May 25 elections, one of its leading members, Alkesan Karapetian, tells "Hayots Ashkhar." Also setting ambitious goals is the pro-establishment Hzor Hayrenik party. One of its leaders, Vartan Vartapetian, says Hzor Hayrenik will get at least 10 percent support. Aghvan Vartanian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) is more cautious in his forecasts, saying only that "the main parties" supporting President Robert Kocharian will be represented in the next National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the governing Republican Party (HHK), Tigran Torosian, accuses its pro-Kocharian rivals of using dirty tricks against the HHK in the election campaign. "Hayots Ashkhar" quotes Torosian as saying that "strangely enough" the Republicans do not face that much criticism from the opposition.
The HHK campaign chief, Galust Sahakian, makes the same point in an interview with "Haykakan Zhamanak." "At this point the Republican Party's relations with both the Artarutyun bloc and Geghamian's party are much more civilized that with the parties of the pro-government camp," Sahakian says. "We go for an idea, while the aim of other political forces is power." He emphasizes that the HHK detractors should not be allowed to come to power.
"Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" provides an extensive coverage of the third anniversary of HHK leader Andranik Markarian's appointment as prime minister. The paper says the Markarian government's track record has been markedly positive. "The ongoing reforms are increasingly geared toward an [ordinary] person, the country's citizen," it says, expressing confidence that Armenians will vote for Markarian and the Republicans in large numbers.
"Azg," a newspaper controlled by the Diaspora-based Ramkavar Azatakan party, also sees major achievements registered by the current government and stresses the need for a continuity of its policies.
Sociologist Hranush Kharatian tells "Hayots Ashkhar" that only four Armenian parties can make a strong showing in the polls. Those are the HHK, Dashnaktsutyun, Artarutyun and Orinats Yerkir. But she says none of them can garner more than 18 percent of votes. Kharatian is confident that the new parliament will be dominated by Kocharian's supporters. She also believes that the parliamentary race will not see the kind of political tensions that marred the recent presidential vote because most Armenians do not perceive their National Assembly as a powerful and important institution.
"Aravot" dismisses as irrelevant the idea (advanced by Dashnaktsutyun) of stripping parliament deputies of immunity from prosecution. The paper says that would hardly raise the professional and intellectual level of Armenian lawmakers as is argued by proponents of the idea. What the country needs is clean elections, it says. The constitutionally guaranteed immunity, according to "Aravot," is a major safeguard against possible government "persecution" of opposition deputies.