After the announcement of the new meeting of the OSCE Minsk Group in Malta co-chairs the Armenian media spotlight gradually turns to the tiny Mediterranean island. “Azg” says the fact that the Russian delegation will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov suggests that Moscow is stepping up its involvement in the peace process. The Kremlin will no doubt have the upper hand in the Karabakh conflict mediation. Neither the United States nor France have such levers in the region.
“Iravunk” sees a deepening divide between the authorities and the opposition in Armenia. As the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2003 approach, the paper says, political polarization will grow even further. The only way Robert Kocharian can win reelection is through the “concentration of the main administrative, economic and propaganda levers.” It is already obvious that Armenians are not going to vote for him in large numbers. The paper views the planned privatization of several large state-run factories managed by Kocharian’s political opponents as part of the president’s reelection strategy.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” contends that the authorities are dragging out the privatization of two of those factories, Ararat Cement and Mars, to restrict the “freedom of action” of its two managers, former prime minister Aram Sarkisian and HZhK leader Stepan Demirchian. The latter complains that the Yerevan-based electronics company is hit hard by the uncertainty caused by the delay.
The pro-opposition paper also cites official figures to argue that Sarkisian’s replacement in May 2000 by Andranik Markarian has not led to an increase in foreign direct investments in the Armenian economy. On the contrary, the average rate of FDI was higher under Sarkisian than it is under the current prime minister. The ex-premier, who now leads the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, says his ouster by Kocharian has had a negative impact on political stability in Armenia. “The situation is more restive now,” he says.
The pro-Markarian “Zhamanak,” however, takes the view that Sarkisian’s continued prime ministership would have made the country’s future “unpredictable.” The paper also says those who have claimed over the past year that Markarian’s sacking is just a matter of time must have felt disappointed when Kocharian praised the government last week.
“Hayots Ashkhar” draws attention to Ashot Manucharian’s promise to announce soon the name of the joint opposition candidate in the next presidential election. That candidate must enjoy the simultaneous support of what the paper thinks are Armenia’s two main opposition parties: Hanrapetutyun and the HZhK. But both Sarkisian and Demirchian lack charisma and popularity to defeat Kocharian. They know this well and are therefore likely to pick somebody else who is more “populist” than they.