"Iravunk" says that pro-government TV channels increasingly feature President Kocharian visiting construction sites and inaugurating factories. "That doesn't mean that Armenia as a whole has turned into construction sites and working factories. It's just that more or less known all officials, including the president of the republic, find it necessary to be pictured against the background of construction cranes and manufacturing facilities." Armenians are thus being presented a "virtual reality" where the economy is buzzing with activity as it did in the Soviet times. This is, according to the paper, the main reason for heightened government "pressure on mass media." "The authorities are seeking to create an illusion of their invulnerability, while the anti-presidential segment of the opposition is acting in the same virtual territory, trying to show that the government boat is strongly rocking and will soon capsize."
"Haykakan Zhamanak" says there is renewed talk of the dissolution of the parliament and fresh elections. This follows the Miasnutyun faction's initiative to amend the existing election law. The paper believes that Kocharian is behind Miasnutyun's amendment package. "He wants to strengthen his presence in the commissions to successfully stage-manage his reelection. That task requires not only ensuring passage of those amendments but also dissolving the National Assembly immediately afterwards." The paper points to one of the draft amendments whereby new election commissions are to be formed within 40 days after the next parliamentary elections. So if the current parliament completes its four-year term in spring 2003, Kocharian will not be able to form new commissions for the next presidential election, also due at the same time in 2003. Therefore, the need to hold earlier parliamentary elections.
Several newspapers report on the refusal by a provincial election commission to register former fugitive interior minister Vano Siradeghian as a candidate in an upcoming parliamentary by-election. "Haykakan Zhamanak" and "Aravot" quote HHSh leaders as saying that the decision was "illegal."
Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the opposition National Unity party, tells "Iravunk" that the 1998 resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrosian did not mark a change of leadership in Armenia as his successor, Kocharian, himself "originates from the HHSh." Geghamian claims that Kocharian can not win the next election and that he can become president if "partner parties support him."
"Aravot" editorializes that the authorities seem to be genuinely worried about Levon Ter-Petrosian's return to active politics. But it says "there is no reason for such panic." "Ter-Petrosian will not return." Nor will Ter-Petrosian and his HHSh support more popular opposition forces behind the scenes. "They are so ambitious that they won't tolerate anyone even temporarily," the paper writes. So the Kocharian regime had better focus on more serious rivals like Geghamian, HZhK leader Stepan Demirchian or the AZhM's Vazgen Manukian. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of Kocharian's propaganda machine in the coming months, according to "Aravot."
"Hayots Ashkhar" is irritated by conflicting reports about Ter-Petrosian's plans. The pro-Kocharian daily says it is ordinary Armenians, not the authorities, that are alarmed at the ex-president's possible return.