“Zhamanak” says fresh rumors about impending changes in Andranik Markarian’s cabinet were on Tuesday dismissed as “groundless” by officials in President Kocharian’s administration. The paper controlled by Markarian’s Republican Party says those who spread such rumors from time to time aim to “cause artificial tensions in various echelons of the executive.”
Meanwhile, leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party see a campaign of smear against the current Armenian parliament unleashed by the authorities, “Aravot” reports. The party’s chairman, Albert Bazeyan, told party activists on Tuesday that Kocharian may soon dissolve the National Assembly and call fresh elections in order to “distract the opposition’s and public’s attention from the process of the president’s impeachment.” He assured that Hanrapetutyun and its allies, the People’s and National Unity parties, are “working actively” to bring up the impeachment issue in the parliament. They need the support of at least 44 deputies to do so. Bazeyan said the opposition trio “probably” will succeed in collecting the required number of signatures by the end of this month.
Another Hanrapetutyun leader, former prime minister Aram Sarkisian, spoke on Tuesday of the need to give Kocharian security guarantees in the even of his resignation. “Aravot” quotes him as saying that by arresting Mushegh Saghatelian, a former interior ministry official close to Hanrapetutyun, Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian added to the credibility of allegations that they were behind the 1999 assassinations in the parliament.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that 16 members of the Armenian parliament have signed a letter to Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian asking him to release Saghatelian from jail pending the investigation. It also says 13 senior members of the Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans, with which Saghatelian is affiliated, have demanded an emergency meeting of the organization’s board. But the board’s pro-Kocharian majority “does not have the courage” to challenge Saghatelian’s prosecution on several criminal charges. The paper quotes one unnamed member of the Yerkrapah board as explaining that defense chief Sarkisian has “compromising material” about at least 40 of 45 members of the union’s governing body.
“Hayots Ashkhar” shrugs off the calls for Saghatelian’s release as a “primitive blackmail.” It says if the former head of Armenia’s prisons is released from pre-trial arrest then “any other criminal” will be able to link his prosecution with the probe of the parliament shootings. Gagik Mkrtchian, the paper’s editor who was personally beaten by Saghatelian after his arrest in the wake of the September 1996 presidential election, attacks those Armenian media that he believes defend the controversial former official.