of "oppositional" parties are charging
that the incumbent Government is using unfair
means to limit oppositional candidates' campaigns.
Politicians and their handlers who are contesting
the February 19 election, say that the predominantly
pro-government television stations carry reports
on the President's daily activities and, by default,
exclude other candidates from public recognition.
Further, they say Robert Kocharyan's paid commercials
get the best air time.
Suren Surenyants, press secretary for Aram Z.
Sargsyan, says that even when opposition candidates
make the news: "It is presented on TV as
a boring, uninteresting and dull meeting, which
was attended only by several old people and there
was nobody to support that candidate.
"If before people in sign of respect and
love used to make matagh by slaughtering a sheep
at the feet of Karen Demirchyan then these days
they do the same for his son (candidate Stepan
Demirchyan). However, unlike the past, today it
is interpreted completely differently, motivated
by the love towards animals."
Some candidates have started making lists of
what they see as unfair campaigning and some have
printed brochures pointing out certain incidences.
Observers say that the opposition has been especially
hampered this year by increases in advertising
previous Presidential elections this time not
all of the candidates will have possibility to
show their political spots and advertisements
on TV," Surenyants says.
By law, candidates are allowed to spend approximately
$100,000 during the campaign. This election, television
advertising time has increased sharply.
According to Surenyants five central private
TV companies - Armenia, Prometheus, Shant, ALM
and Kentron, -- which have the largest audiences,
have increased airtime to $120 per minute whereas
before it was possible to buy the same time for
"All of us perfectly realize that conditions
like that are dictated not by the demands of market
but for creating obstacles to some, especially
oppositional candidates as they always look for
something to hinder us," Surenyants says.
"And unlike the acting President, whom it
seems no law extends to and whose spots are always
shown on TV, we haven't got many possibilities
of making use of all those things."
Aghasi Arshakyan, representative of Artashes
Geghamyan, says unfair treatment of the opposition
extends beyond television advertising.
"Several days before the start of pre-election
campaign all communities' heads were verbally
ordered to increase by approximately 400 percent
the prices for political advertisement,"
he says. "Before the prices for advertising
on posters were $4-$8 per one square meter and
now one square meter costs $30 and more. We also
have information that those advertising agencies
were terrorized that their businesses would be
taken from them."
incidents may simply be seen as gamesmanship.
Two weeks ago, during Raffi Hovannisian's court
hearing to determine his status as a candidate,
several large athletes appeared at the hearing,
allegedly sent their by Serge Sarksyan, Kocharyan's
campaign manager (and Minister of Defense) to
restrict the possibilities for Hovannisian supporters
Earlier this week someone set fire to one of Artashes
Geghyamyan's campaign billboards on the edge of
The campaign is being blamed as a reason for
vandalism and destruction of property in the city
of Ashtarak. One TV station's telephone wires
were cut, its equipment thrown out and the staff
evicted by the landlord after the station broadcast
videotape of Aram Z. Sargsyan
Surenyants charges that pro-government advocates
recently tried to close his candidate's campaign
offices in Talin, and that "they create artificial
problems for creating obstacle to our work as
much as illegally they can."