“Hayots Ashkhar” comments that the first ten days of the election campaign have exposed Robert Kocharian’s “substantial advantage over all of his rivals.” The paper claims that never before did an Armenian presidential candidate have such a lead there weeks before the vote. The pro-Kocharian paper attributes that to the opposition’s failure to nominate a single candidate. In these circumstance, it says, all Kocharian needs to do is to display “restraint” and “calmly” complete his campaign.
“Azg” offers a totally different perspective on the campaign, saying that it has only reinforced the electorate’s sense of “fear and desperation.” “The campaigning is adding to the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance,” the paper notes alarmingly.
Newspapers critical of Kocharian are full of stories alleging pre-election irregularities. These allegations are strongly denied by Kocharian’s campaign headquarters, according to “Haykakan Zhamanak.”
“Orran” says Kocharian’s campaign activists are making house-to-house visits across the country, pressurizing people into voting for Kocharian. The paper urges voters not to succumb to the alleged pressure. “Do not sign anything. Be aware that if you don’t participate in the February 19 elections, others will forge your signatures and vote in your name,” it warns. “Also, do not give away your passports in exchange for any payment.”
Opposition leader Albert Bazeyan adds his voice to the “Orran” calls. “Every vote is important, and every citizen’s participation in the elections would prevent vote irregularities,” Bazeyan says. “The incumbent president’s reelection will require a large percentage of irregularities.” Bazeyan also says that the opposition may still agree on a single candidate.
Sos Sarkisian, a prominent Armenian actor, tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that the presidential candidates other than Kocharian are “not staging a good performance.” “Even secondary, unimportant roles are not performed well by many candidates,” he says. Sarkisian believes that only Kocharian deserves to get the role of “a lead actor.” Others are no match to the current president, he says.
In an interview with “Aravot,” the head of the election monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Peter Eicher, makes it clear that the observers can not control the conduct of the elections. Eicher says all they can do is to watch the electoral process and present their opinion. “We lack the power to force any change,” he says.