Stepan Demirchian’s blistering attack on the authorities over the release of six parliament shootings suspects, launched in a weekend interview with RFE/RL, is the central theme of Tuesday’s Armenian press commentary.
“Hayots Ashkhar” hits backs, alleging that it is Demirchian’s HZhK, and not the government, that is sponsoring terrorism. The HZhK and its Yerkrapah allies in the parliament knew well who could be covered by the recent amnesty when it was debated in the parliament. “They deliberately voted for the amnesty in order to spark renewed tensions in the country’s political life,” the paper says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” sees “an unprecedented scandal” looming, reporting that lawyers representing Demirchian and other relatives of the parliament attack victims have challenged the legality of the suspects’ release, arguing that the amnesty did not extend to criminal cases currently considered by courts. The lawyers will challenge judge Samvel Uzunian’s decision in the higher Review Court.
“Aravot” claims that the “impudent” behavior of ringleader Nairi Hunanian has the following explanation: “Some influential forces have promised the terrorist to save his life, citing the enlightened European principles. This fact greatly hampers the trial . When a criminal knows that his days are numbered he is more inclined to tell the truth.”
A disappointed “Azg” writes that the weekend congress of the Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs saw no frank discussion of problems facing Armenia’s business community. There were probably more government bureaucrats and NGO leaders than business people at the congress. Even those businessmen who were elected members of the Union’s board were absent from the gathering. The country’s largest business association, set up at the initiative of Levon Ter-Petrossian in 1995, has always had a “conformist” attitude to the ruling regime. The challenge for its new chairman, Arsen Gharazian, is turn the organization into a workable structure.
Vahan Hovannisian, chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security, makes his case in “Yerkir” for a radical overhaul of the presidential council on national security. First of all, Hovannisian says, the body must not be headed by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian or any other cabinet member. Secondly, the president of the republic must name only a third of its members, and not all of them as is the case now. Other members of the national security council should be appointed by the parliament and selected from among leading “scientists,” according to Hovannisian. What is more, the council must be entitled to veto any “important decision” made by the head of state.
“Zhamanak” says that the victory of the Miasnutyun bloc in the 1999 elections and Vazgen Sarkisian’s ensued appointment as prime minister marked Armenia’s de-facto transition from a presidential to a “semi-presidential” republic. The cabinet of ministers has since acted as a counterweight to President Kocharian. The planned constitutional reform must give this transformation a legal basis.
But according to “Iravunk,” Kocharian has not given away any of his sweeping powers and is on the contrary trying to maximize them. A number of draft laws pending debate in the parliament aim to “reinforce the president’s authoritarian power.”