“Aravot” continues a series of reports aimed at exposing the hidden wealth of high-ranking government officials. It is now Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian’s turn to face an embarrassing dissemination of the picture of his expensive villa one-hour drive from Yerevan. The paper says its photographer’s camera could not catch the minister’s entire compound in a single shot because of its sheer size.
One of Harutiunian’s deputies, Hovannes Varian, reveals to “Hayots Ashkhar” some interesting moments of his work. Most ordinary Armenians, Varian says, are law-abiding citizens, which is why Armenia has avoided major “bloodshed” over the past decade. It is therefore difficult to take “drastic decisions” to prevent them taking “illegal steps” during mass street protests. In Varian’s opinion, the “most explosive situation” that has faced Armenia since independence was on the night from September 25 to 26 of 1996, during the violent aftermath of the disputed presidential election.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party will urge its supporters to boycott next year’s constitutional referendum if they are not given a choice between the presidential and opposition bills. One of the party’s leaders, Albert Bazeyan, says President Kocharian is now “trying to speak from the position of force.” And yet it is the people who must decide what system of government Armenia should adopt, Bazeyan argues.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says Kocharian’s tough stance on constitutional reform has led to the consolidation of several opposition forces. That would not have happened if Kocharian had used “more delicate language” to express his position on the issue. But in any case, the paper says, the opposition proposals on constitutional change will not end up in the ballots. Not least because the current parliament majority is against them, well aware that “the experiment with parliamentary republic could cost the state dearly.”
“Yerkir” reasons that Kocharian’s strong opposition to the idea of giving voters a choice is driven by the fear that most people could endorse the opposition variant, something which would mean a vote of no confidence in the head of state. He must also be worried about growing cooperation among opposition parties advocating sweeping constitutional changes.
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports that an Armenian parliamentarian who has just returned from Nagorno-Karabakh found major improvements there. Semyon Baghdasarian says the situation in Karabakh is now “under the full control” of the Stepanakert authorities. “As for the people, they have a certain sense of self-confidence, which is somewhat unusual for us,” Baghdasarian says. He also claims that the Karabakh Armenians are well conscious of “their status of a victorious state.”
Meanwhile, “Zhamanak,” a newspaper controlled by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, says that the jailed former commander of the Karabakh army, General Samvel Babayan, is likely to be set free “in the coming days.”