By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
President Robert Kocharian visited on Friday some of his numerous campaign offices in Yerevan and met with their activists behind the closed doors for the second day running. Political parties supporting him were, meanwhile, discussing plans to hold joint rallies ahead of the March 5 run-off.
Kocharian’s campaign spokesman, Vahagn Mkrtchian, told RFE/RL that the “working meetings,” which journalists were not allowed to cover, focused on ways of preventing further vote irregularities in the second round. “Our task is to hold elections that are as free and fair as possible,” he said. “In that regard, we will undertake appropriate measures to enhance the oversight of polling stations through our proxies.”
According to the final results of the February 19 first round, Kocharian fared worse in Yerevan than in virtually all other regions of the country, winning 37.8 percent of the vote. The Central Election Commission put his nationwide performance at 49.5 percent.
Mkrtchian reiterated Kocharian’s belief that there were some irregularities during the first round but that their significance is exaggerated by the opposition. He also claimed that supporters of both the incumbent president and opposition candidates broke the law.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian made a similar point in an interview with RFE/RL on Friday, arguing that the Armenian vote was not judged to be “extraordinarily bad” by international observers. Nonetheless, he sounded more critical.
“Of course, it was our desire to hold normal elections and see things happening peacefully and smoothly, which would boost our international standing,” Oskanian said. “Unfortunately, this has not been the case.”
Meanwhile, three major pro-presidential parties -- the Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir -- announced on Friday plans to hold rallies in support of Kocharian in the next three days. They have already obtained an official permission from the Yerevan city authorities.
However, the three parties plan to hold the gatherings on the same square in central Yerevan where opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian has rallied supporters for the past week and intends to hold more anti-government demonstrations on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Officials at Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) said the protests will go ahead even though they have not been sanctioned by the authorities and could overlap with the pro-Kocharian rallies.