Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian assures “Golos Armenii” that the Armenian authorities are now “as interested in holding free and fair elections as never before.” “If the people didn’t believe in the just outcome of elections, they would not vote,” he says. “It’s just that there are individuals who constantly instill [in people’s minds] that fair elections are not possible here. We will try to prove the opposite.” On the question of the voting by the military, Sarkisian says: “The ballot will be secret, and nobody can impose one or another choice.” But he adds that if an Armenian serviceman votes “in the way his minister thinks necessary,” he will only welcome that.
Sarkisian, who will manage President’s Kocharian’s reelection campaign, also denies reports about serious differences between various government factions and political parties supporting the incumbent. “I believe that there is complete mutual understanding in that camp,” he says. “There were some issues six or eight months ago. But that’s a past stage and there are no differences inside the [presidential] team today.”
“Aravot,” meanwhile, ridicules the start of what it calls a “contest to glorify the incumbent president” orchestrated by the Orinats Yerkir party. The paper attacks those prominent intellectuals who have publicly spoken out in favor of Kocharian’s reelection. It says Orinats Yerkir leaders, for their part, have distinguished themselves with “aggressive impudence.” The party’s young chairman, Artur Baghdasarian, was equally forceful in campaigning for Levon Ter-Petrosian’s reelection in 1996. Now he speaks of a “heavy legacy” inherited from the former regime. One day he will do the same thing with regard to Kocharian.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the recent pre-election conferences of leading opposition parties amounted to an expression of “insults, threats and ludicrous thoughts” regarding the current authorities. No party has suggested a “meaningful alternative” to their policies.
“Golos Armenii” believes that Kocharian relies not so much on the cultural and artistic elite as on “common sense” and his power levers. But those levers alone can not translate into more than 25 percent of the vote. Only Kocharian’s political allies can bring the remaining votes needed for his victory. The paper at the same time cautions that leaders of the pro-presidential parties can not guarantee that all of their rank-and-file members will vote for Kocharian. As for the opposition, it is still unable to capitalize on the widespread public discontent with the government.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” puts Wednesday’s ratification of the Russian-Armenian debt agreement by the parliament in a pre-election context. The paper accuses the pro-government majority of falsifying the voting’s results, describing that as a “state crime with severe consequences for the country.” “Thus, Russia is an illegitimate owner of the Hrazdan power plant and the Mars factory. One should therefore not be surprised that Russia is already supporting [Armenia’s] illegitimate incumbent president and equally illegitimate presidential candidate, Robert Kocharian.”