Armenian newspapers, ending their two-week summer break, express their dismay at the de jure promotion of Ashot Gizirian, the Yerevan police chief who reportedly beat up a parliament deputy last month.
"Aravot" says the move was proof that Kocharian does not care about the HHK's opinion. (The Republicans led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian had backed calls for Gizirian's replacement.) "The prime minister lacks the influence and levers to punish even a police chief unless it is desired by Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian."
"Once again, the speaker of the National Assembly and the prime minister have been told that their protests and statements are not worth a penny," comments "Haykakan Zhamanak."
"Or" believes that by promoting Gizirian, Kocharian "delivered a kind of slap" to the deputy assaulted by the police chief as well as the HHK-led Miasnutyun faction of the parliament, speaker Armen Khachatrian and Markarian. " 'The republic is me.' Is this what the president wants to say with his actions? If so, then that does not promise anything good."
"Iravunk" agrees that Gizirian's promotion was a clear challenge to Markarian. "Both the president and defense minister do not like the fact that the Republican Party has a very strong network of influence in the middle and lower echelons of the government, which can strengthen Andranik Markarian and perhaps force them to continue his prime ministership in 2003. Robert Kocharian does not want to have a 'support base' that dictates preconditions and can one day become stronger than the president."
"Aravot" also editorializes that President Robert Kocharian has taken the first step toward ensuring his victory in next February's presidential elections. He now has full control over the newly formed Central Election Commission (CEC). The paper claims that Kocharian will not have to resort to ballot box stuffing or vote buying in order to get reelected. Falsifying the vote protocols will be enough.
"Iravunk" says the United States is skeptical about the possibility of pro-Western Armenian parties putting forward a single candidate in the elections. Nor does the U.S. expect former president Levon Ter-Petrosian to participate in them. "The Americans now want Armenia's pro-American parties to concentrate on the parliamentary elections and at the same time they save no effort to taint and discredit Robert Kocharian's 'reelection'."
But according to a leading member of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), David Shahnazarian, Kocharian stands no chance of winning the elections. "He was brought to power on the back of Vazgen Sarkisian. Today nobody has Vazgen's influence," Shahnazarian tells "Iravunk." Shahnazarian continues to believe that Ter-Petrosian will run for president and win the vote.
In the words of another opposition leader, Artashes Geghamian, Kocharian "seized power dishonestly" in 1998 not with the aim of solving the Karabakh problem. "No country...will reckon with Kocharian whom they consider illegitimate," Geghamian says in an interview with "Iravunk."
"Or" writes that Kocharian will primarily rely on the political force that will make the strongest showing in the October local elections. That is why, the paper says, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will engage in a fierce struggle with other pro-presidential organizations.