By Ruzanna Khachatrian in Armavir and Karine Kalantarian
President Robert Kocharian ended on Tuesday his eighth consecutive day of campaigning with another pledge to ensure that the February 19 presidential elections are “civilized and legitimate.”
“Let us make sure that nobody has any doubts about [the legitimacy of] the elected president,” Kocharian declared to supporters in Armavir, the capital of the eponymous province in southern Armenia. He said the polls should demonstrate that Armenia deserved to become a member of the Council of Europe two years ago.
The assurances came amid mounting opposition allegations that the authorities are taking illegal actions to facilitate Kocharian’s reelection. One of the opposition candidates, Aram Karapetian, charged in a statement on Monday that the Kocharian campaign is illegally using government buildings and other property across the country.
Another hopeful, Stepan Demirchian, has accused the incumbent’s supporters of obstructing his campaign. On Tuesday night an unknown assailant threw a stone at the window of Demirchian’s campaign office in Abovian, a city 20 kilometers north of Yerevan. Its manager, parliament deputy Smbat Yeghiazarian, told RFE/RL that the local police are investigating the incident.
According to another candidate, Aram Sarkisian of the Democratic Party, local government chiefs across the country have received secret orders to ensure as many votes for Kocharian as they polled during the recent local elections. “Our office phones keep ringing for the last ten days,” he told reporters. “Every day we get dozens of complaints about various illegalities.”
Demirchian and other opposition leaders never recognized Kocharian’s victory in the 1998 presidential elections criticized by international monitors. Kocharian mentioned this fact in his speech. “It’s one thing when one or two individuals say that, and it’s another thing when a large number of people think so,” he said, adding that he is interested in a clean reelection.
Kocharian was again accompanied by a large group of top government officials and leaders of pro-presidential political parties. As usual, some of them addressed the crowd, claiming a marked improvement of Armenia’s difficult economic situation over the last five years. “Two more such years and each of you and your families will feel the result of our joint work,” said Tigran Torosian of the governing Republican Party of Armenia.
Kocharian, for his part, promised to improve the local transport and irrigation network and address other needs of the largely agricultural area. “Let us work together,” he repeated his campaign slogan, drawing applause from the Armavir residents.
Some of them remained unimpressed though. “Why don’t you work with me as a laborer?” grumbled one man.