Newspapers sympathetic to the Armenian opposition continue to allege numerous election irregularities committed by President Robert Kocharian’s supporters.
According to “Aravot,” the most frequent irregularities have to do with the involvement of government employees in the Kocharian campaign and their suspicious collection of passports from ordinary citizens. The paper says Kocharian aired on Tuesday a campaign advertisement on state television featuring two prominent Armenians from Russia: Ara Abrahamian and Andranik Mihranian. Under Armenia’s election, presidential candidates can not publicize any endorsements from foreign nationals.
But as “Hayots Ashkhar” writes, ethnic Armenians living abroad “can not stay indifferent” to the presidential elections in Armenia. The paper carries a statement by Abrahamian’s Union of Armenians of Russia that expresses strong support for Kocharian’s reelection.
“Hayots Ashkhar” also reports that Russian customs officials confiscated last week about $120,000 in cash from an Armenian citizen heading for Yerevan. The paper claims that the money was collected by fugitive Armenian “criminal elements” and was intended for opposition candidate Artashes Geghamian. “Geghamian’s campaign is financed by the criminal underworld which is trying to seize power,” it says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” and “Orran,” on the other hand, accuse the authorities of vote buying. Both papers claim that those who pledge to vote for Kocharian get cash from the National Academy of Sciences building that currently houses the president’s campaign headquarters.
“Orran” also says that the “drastic increase” in Stepan Demirchian’s approval ratings has thrown the Kocharian campaign into disarray. The paper says Kocharian’s campaign spokesman, Vahagn Mkrtchian, is no longer available for comment. The campaign manager, Serzh Sarkisian, also refuses to talk to the paper.
Sarkisian gives instead an interview to the pro-Kocharian “Hayots Ashkhar.” He argues that Kocharian has a lot of political experience and would not need some time to become accustomed to the presidential office. “Also, he would not need to get to know leaders of the world powers because Robert Kocharian is already perceived as an established leader of Armenia.,” he says. “In addition, Robert Kocharian would not need to prove to anyone that he is an honest person.”
“Aravot” says that hundreds of school teachers, university professors and other public sector employees were “herded” to Kocharian’s campaign rally in central Yerevan on Monday. Something like that already happened in Armenia in the run-up to the September 1996 presidential election. This leads the paper to conclude that Kocharian is also “not sure that the people want to socialize with him.”