a weekend in which high-ranking administration
took to the airwaves and Opposition sympathizers
took to the streets, Yerevan is anticipating eight
more days of emotionally charged campaigning before
the March 5 Presidential Election run-off.
Some Opposition members have been arrested for
public disorder and windows were broken at President
Robert Kocharyan's main campaign office. Barbed
wire has been unrolled in strategic Government
places, but except for wars of words, conditions
remain mostly calm.
In an interview on public television Saturday,
Kocharyan said the country's political stability
is a result of his administration and that he
would not allow stable conditions to deteriorate.
"We will react seriously and strictly to
all those attempts that could be aimed at disrupting
the public order and especially paralyzing the
work of State bodies," the President said.
"This is an unambiguous position and I think
everyone should be aware of it."
Already aware of the President's determined position
are several dozen demonstrators who have been
jailed for their participation in rallies that
were held without municipal sanction.
According to Stepan Demirchyan's campaign headquarters,
at least 130 supporters have been arrested in
the past three days. Press Secretary Ruzanna Khachatryan
said the number includes women and children and
members of Demirchyan's campaign staff. The arrested
are expected to spend 15 days in jail for charges
that include disturbing the peace.
Yerevan Mayor Robert Nazaryan announced that
Demirchyan and his allies
have not applied to the City Council for official
permission for any of their demonstrations. A
rally on Sunday included demonstrations near the
President's residence and across the center of
the city at his campaign headquarters. One news
source estimated 60,000 participants.
the rally which began at 2 p.m. and lasted for
about three hours, Demirchyan told his supporters:
"I am very proud of people surrounding me,
and together we will lead our country out of this
Minister of Defense Serzh Sarksyan, who is also
the President's campaign manager, issued a statement
that linked the current climate with the ongoing
conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.
"Let us not forget that the war has not
finished yet," Sargsyan said and that "the
armed forces will not stand if the Opposition's
actions endanger the State order."
In a television interview Sargsyan blamed Kocharyan's
opponents for "violating the internal political
balance of the State by its actions and calls.
"The Opposition must understand that attempts
to violate the internal political stability in
the country put under threat the constitutional
order and state security."
During his televised interview, Kocharyan reminded
viewers that last week is not the first time "politicians
tried to destabilize the situation in the country
hiding behind the people".
Kocharyan said he is satisfied with the results
of the first round of voting, adding that his
49.8 percent is enough for a convincing victory
in the runoff.
The President also said that the Opposition is
much stronger when it acts within the law and
that what the Opposition is doing now is tactically
response to a question about the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe's report
that last week's election did not meet international
standards, Kocharyan emphasized that previous
elections were judged more harshly by outsiders
than this one.
In an interview with ArmenianNow, OSCE delegation
chairman Peter Eicher said the observers - about
200, representing 35 countries -- went to polling
stations in pairs to gather their reports. He
said about 25 members of OSCE's core group will
remain in Yerevan and that the full contingent
will return for next Wednesday's run-off.
On Sunday, the country's public television station
announced it intends to organize two debates between
the candidates for its program "Orakarg"
(Agenda) in which Kocharyan and Demirchyan will
be asked questions concerning national and international
Third-place candidate Artashes Geghamyan, who
received about 17 percent of last Wednesday's
votes, still has not said who he will support
in the runoff.
The veteran politician has called last week's
vote illegitimate and says that the Opposition's
participation in a runoff would imply its agreement
that the first vote should be recognized as lawful.
(ArmeniaNow reporter Suren Deheryan contributed
to this report.)