"Aravot" says that Wednesday's emergency congress of the semi-official Union of Communities degenerated into "a quite obvious clash between supporters of the president and the prime minister." At times the gathering resembled a congress of an opposition party. The paper chides those local government chiefs who blamed all socioeconomic problems on Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, avoiding any attacks on President Robert Kocharian.
"Haykakan Zhamanak" comments that the purpose of the emergency congress was not clear. The 6,000 or so delegates did little except criticizing the government and the parliament. "The most serious accusation was voiced by Echmiadzin Mayor [Yervand] Aghvanian. He said: 'Mr. prime minister, we and our voters now want to know how long we should wait? How many million dollars you are going to appropriate?'" The paper suggests that Kocharian was in advance aware of the "program of this anti-government gathering." It says Aghvanian is a friend of Artashes Tumanian, chief of the presidential staff. "Given Tumanian's prime ministerial ambitions, it may well be that he organized the congress with Kocharian's blessing. The question of 'how long we should wait' was probably Tumanian's," the paper concludes.
Meanwhile, a senior member of Markarian's Republican Party (HHK) tells "Hayots Ashkhar" that the HHK has already held "preliminary discussions" on its participation in the February presidential elections. Gagik Minasian indicates that the Republicans will endorse Kocharian's candidacy.
Also in "Hayots Ashkhar," a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Alvard Petrosian, complains that Kocharian often appoints persons with "not a strong intellect" to senior positions. "I think that there is an alternative to Robert Kocharian," she says. That alternative "will one day emerge on the political arena." In the meantime, Petrosian explains, she has no other option but to support Kocharian.
"Hayots Ashkhar" says the main criterion for electing a president next year should be a candidate's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. People should only vote for candidates with a "clearly pro-Armenian" stance on the issue.
"Aravot" is worried that the sale of the power distribution network could turn out to be "another ArmenTel." Armenians are told that its new owner will be unable to increase electricity fees at will. But the paper, again citing ArmenTel's example, claims that the government has demonstrated that it is not averse to colluding with business monopolies. And if the government sold the power grids to a "dubious company" only for reducing their losses, then the deal was not worth it. Why didn't the government itself try to tackle the energy sector corruption? The government argument that the sell-off would bring more World Bank loans is also void as the bank is now unlikely to disburse its delayed $20 million tranche.
"Azg" is also skeptical about the government's ability to attract promised investments and ensure the sector's reform and re-structuring.