Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that the government’s strongly negative reaction to ArmenTel’s decision to raise phone charges is in line with Robert Kocharian’s opinion.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” speculates that the ArmenTel dispute might clear the way for Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s appointment as prime minister. There are growing rumors that Kocharian will pick Sarkisian for the job after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit. If Sarkisian manages to persuade the Greeks to shelve the per-minute payment system, his popularity will increase considerably. “In effect, Serzh Sarkisian has found himself in a situation in which Vazgen Sarkisian was in the spring of 1999 when he was performing much greater functions than those vested in the post of defense minister.”
“Hayots Ashkhar,” meanwhile carries the second part of its interview with the powerful defense minister. Sarkisian the planned transfer of some state-run enterprises under Russian control is not just a debt repayment scheme. It is aimed at the “economic integration” of Russia and Armenia. Their economic ties are lagging behind political and military ones, and the two countries are serious about changing that, Sarkisian says.
“Aravot” editorializes that Armenian government officials are highly dependent on their superiors, which is why protecting the rule of law is of secondary importance for most of them. If they fall out with the country’s supreme rulers, they will risk losing a lot: their posts, villas, luxury cars and businesses. “They are under the constant stress, fearing to lose all that. And they have reason to shudder. They can lose everything at any moment if the government wills so.” Only pro-government politicians, top bureaucrats and some privileged businessmen are doing well in Armenia, according to the paper. “But their welfare is shaky and temporary. And you can’t build stability on fear.”
“Yerkir” targets leaders of the consolidating opposition parties, branding them a “radical gang” whose members do not trust each other. Artashes Geghamian, for instance, is going out of his way to prove that he is a “real oppositionist, and not Serzh Sarkisian’s man.” Friday’s congress of the Hanrapetutyun party will be another occasion for him to defend his opposition credentials.
“Iravunk” says that the three parties that are due to issue a joint anti-Kocharian statement have already agreed on the distribution of government posts in the event of the president’s removal from office. But, the paper says, “the pro-government camp still has a pretty big potential for resistance.” The relationship with Russian is one of its main trump cards. Defense Minister Sarkisian is casting himself as someone “more pro-Russian than the Russians themselves,” while Kocharian is no less supportive of developing ties with Moscow.