“Haykakan Zhamanak” predicts that Serzh Sarkisian will capitalize on his government resources to win up to 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. “However, any candidate making it to the second round is able to defeat him because most of the people who will have voted for opposition candidates, regardless of those candidates’ endorsements or non-endorsements, will be inclined to vote against the government candidate,” says the paper. “The authorities will either succeed in winning in the first round, which is very difficult and could raise many questions, or will have to seize the [presidential] chair by using troops against their own people.”
According to “Hayk,” the commanders of Armenian interior troops are now busy inspecting their units and selecting “physically strong soldiers” and sending them to Yerevan for “special courses.” Citing unnamed government sources, the opposition paper says those soldiers are being told that those of them who will not shy away from beating opposition demonstrators will be rewarded with jobs in law-enforcement bodies. It claims that very few of them have been lured by the promise so far.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says it is “surprised” by the pro-Ter-Petrosian media’s efforts to “discredit” other opposition presidential candidates. Referring to compromising notes allegedly written by one of those candidates, Vazgen Manukian, the paper says that this is not the first time that Ter-Petrosian produces documents that were supposed to be kept by prosecutors.
“168 Zham” reports that Manukian has demanded that prosecutors launch criminal proceedings against “Haykakan Zhamanak” for attributing those notes to him. “The most interesting thing in this affair is the AZhM leader’s ‘prudence,’” comments the paper. “Just one day ago Vazgen Manukian stated that he has no intention to sue the newspaper and will only appeal to the prosecutor’s office to subject his handwriting to a forensic examination. So why did Mr. Manukian decide to change his mind in one day? In all likelihood, that was decided by the authorities. They want to take an opportunity to use Manukian for taking legal action against an opposition newspaper ahead of the elections.”
“Zhamanak Yerevan” believes that the year 2008 will mark a turning point in the consolidation of the numerous political parties operating in Armenia. The paper says many of them will disband themselves and/or merge into bigger parties. “As a result, we will have only four or five big parties with concrete programs and ideologies left in the political arena,” it concludes.