Charles Aznavour, the prominent French singer of Armenian descent, found major improvements in Armenia when he visited the country in September, according to “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun.” Aznavour, who had previously criticized the authorities for their lack of support for his charitable activities, is quoted as telling a French magazine that the betterment is especially noticeable in the country’s north devastated by the 1988 earthquake. Aznavour feels that Robert Kocharian is doing a better job than his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrossian.
“Aravot” will hardly agree with that opinion. In a bid to prove that the current rulers have outdone their predecessors in personal wealth and conspicuous spending, the paper carries a front-page photograph of a luxury villa built by Minister of National Security Karlos Petrosian in Yerevan recently. “Presumably with his ministerial salary,” the paper suggests sarcastically. Instead of ensuring national security, the former KGB often engages in the collection of personal information about opponents of the regime. Data on their property is particularly sought-after. Officers at the national security ministry surely know that opposition leaders are no match to their boss in terms of the size of their fortune.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” looks at President Kocharian’s public bashing of Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian at his latest meeting with university students. Kocharian voiced his displeasure with the state of affairs in the public health sector, threatening to sack the minister. But strangely enough, Mkrtchian on Friday denied any knowledge of the remarks and said that he has no intention to resign. Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian similarly told the paper that Kocharian has no plans to replace him.
“Hayots Ashkhar” claims that the Armenian opposition parties have failed to form a united front against Kocharian. It is already obvious to the paper that “no serious opposition axis” will have come into existence in the run-up to the 2003 presidential election. This means that there will be no single opposition candidate to challenge Kocharian.
The deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, Gagik Aslanian, tells “Yerkir” that his recently formed People’s Democratic Party, which brings together defectors from the opposition People’s Party (HZhK), supports Kocharian, but thinks it is “too early to endorse any [presidential] candidates” at the moment. “But we want to have a strong president and will stand by the elected president no matter who he is,” Aslanian explains. He also says that his party’s main mission is to “serve as a bridge between the people and authorities.”