Ringleader Nairi Hunanian’s stated plans to run for president draw commentary from Armenian newspapers and politicians. Predictably, their reaction is one of indignation and condemnation. Opposition figures say Hunanian’s self-confident behavior reflects the “disgraceful” course of his protracted trial.
In an editorial titled “Why the criminal is getting more impudent,” “Aravot” accuses the court of allowing Hunanian to “use the courtroom dock as a political podium.” “The cross-examination of any witness turns into a political debate as if this is a trial where the defendant is not a murderous criminal, but some political circle,” the paper writes. “But it would be too simplistic to blame only the authorities or the court for that. We all have grown too indifferent to the crime perpetrated on October 27 1999 and the judicial process connected with it.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” says that the opposition has not yet taken any “serious step” to undercut President Kocharian’s reelection campaign. Both “the alliance of 16” and parties grouped around the former ruling HHSh will fail to make a difference in the course of October. Furthermore, the pro-Kocharian paper predicts, this month will see deepening rifts between the main opposition parties and expose their inability to agree on a common presidential candidate. Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity party, which will hold a pre-election conference on Saturday, epitomizes the opposition weakness. Its activists are campaigning against the current regime just because they hope that Geghamian’s election as president would make them better off.
The deputy chairman of National Unity, Aleksan Karapetian, tells “Yerkir” that Geghamian will “definitely” stand in the February election. “Let the 16 [opposition] parties split,” he says bluntly, adding that opposition candidates will not be fighting each other. Their sole target is Kocharian, Karapetian explains.
But another opposition leader, Shavarsh Kocharian, hopes that the majority of the opposition forces will put aside their ambitions and agree on a single candidate. “Aravot” quotes him as saying that there is no alternative to opposition unity.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says it is wrong to believe that the 16-party opposition coalition was formed in order to topple Kocharian. “The real purpose of the coalition’s founders is to steer the Armenian authorities back to Russia’s doors. The so-called Russian opposition has, in the broadest sense of this word, sold out the opposition movement on several occasions in recent years.” The paper remarks that the opposition steps up its activities when Russia needs to “clinch something from Armenia.” Once the Russians get what they want, the left-wing opposition tones down its anti-government rhetoric.
The Yerkrapah leader, General Manvel Grigorian, reiterates in “Iravunk” that the union of war veterans does not and will not meddle in politics. “We did not fight [in Karabakh] so that one or another politician becomes or does not become the country’s president, chairman of the National Assembly or prime minister,” Grigorian says in a rare newspaper interview. “Do not mix us with politics.” But Grigorian does express a political viewpoint when he speaks out strongly against the abolition of the death penalty in Armenia.