On February 6, Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission officially called a presidential election and scheduled it for March 16. Prime Minister and Acting President Robert Kocharian has thus far deferred a decision about his candidacy, confessing some doubt about his citizenship qualifications. The constitution requires presidential candidates to be citizens of Armenia who have resided in the country for ten years. Kocharian, a native of Karabakh and its prime minister until last March, is considered — like all Karabakh residents — technically a citizen of Azerbaijan. He therefore runs the risk that his election as president of Armenia would be seriously questioned internationally. Within Armenia, one way around this obstacle may be provided by Kocharian’s having served two terms as a deputy to the Armenian parliament after Armenia and Karabakh declared their unification in 1989.
Communist Party leader Sergei Badalian announced his presidential candidacy at a Communist mass rally in Yerevan on February 7. Ruling out any alliance with other political forces, Badalian professed confidence in a handy victory on the ground that "the time of anti-Communism is past in Armenia." His main electoral plank, he said, will be Armenia’s accession to the Russia-Belarus Union and solving the Karabakh conflict on that basis with Russian support.
National-Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukian, the first declared presidential candidate, indicated over the weekend that he would seek the support of Kocharian and an alliance with the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun. Kocharian for his part has announced his intentions to reinstate the Dashnak movement and to free Dashnak political detainees. Manukian narrowly lost to Levon Ter-Petrosian in the suspect presidential election of September 1996. Vazgen Sarkisian and Serge Sarkisian, the "power" ministers instrumental in rigging that election for Ter-Petrosian, again played a decisive role in recent weeks — this time by forcing Ter-Petrosian out of office. (Noyan-Tapan, Azg, Snark, February 6 through 8)
Kyrgyz Security Acts Against Foreign Agents and "Wahhabis."