By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian’s policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and a more conciliatory line favored by his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian enjoy comparable popular support, according to an opinion poll published on Monday.
The findings of the survey conducted in Yerevan by the independent Vox Populi center should be heartening news for the Armenian ex-president who was thought to be highly unpopular until now. They come amid his apparent attempts to return to active politics nearly seven years after losing power.
Vox Populi said 21 percent of 668 people randomly polled in the Armenian capital said Ter-Petrosian is better placed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict than Kocharian. Only 26 percent claimed the opposite, giving the latter a slim advantage over the man he forced to step down in February 1998.
About a third of respondents believe that neither politician is capable of securing a pro-Armenian solution to the dispute with Azerbaijan, with the remaining 24 percent undecided.
The survey was conducted just a week after Ter-Petrosian’s first interview with journalists in more than five years in which he claimed that the Kocharian government’s refusal to make more concessions to Azerbaijan has led to “sad consequences.” The pollsters, little known until recently, said 56 percent fully or partially agree with Ter-Petrosian’s claims that the Armenians will never be able to get as much they were offered by international mediators in 1997 when he was still in power.
The 1997 peace plan, accepted by Azerbaijan, called for a gradual resolution of the conflict that would delay agreement on Karabakh’s status. Ter-Petrosian went to great lengths in trying to sell it to the public. In a lengthy article published by state-run newspapers at the time, he claimed that Armenia stands no chance of emerging from its post-Soviet economic decline without a Karabakh settlement.
Incidentally, the poll found that only 20 percent of Yerevan residents are familiar with the content of Ter-Petrosian’s famous article, dismissed as “defeatist” by his opponents.