Robert Kocharian's refusal on Thursday to answer any political questions from reporters during a visit to Yerevan museums is construed by "Haykakan Zhamanak" as a sign that he is unhappy with recent political developments. The paper notes that when three major opposition parties joined forces a year ago Kocharian's reaction was immediate and very resolute.
"Haykakan Zhamanak" admits at the same time that at least two opposition parties, National Accord and the Communists, have effectively quit the 16-party opposition coalition.
"Yerkir" comments in this regard that personal ambitions of opposition leaders have outweighed the potentially huge benefits of putting forward a single opposition candidate.
Citing an unnamed "informed source close to the U.S. embassy in Yerevan," "Iravunk" claims that Armenia's London-based former prime minister, Armen Sarkisian, has not only decided to run for president but has also formed his "shadow cabinet." That cabinet, according to the paper, is headed by Aram Sarkisian, another ex-premier and a leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party. Another Hanrapetutyun leader, Vagharshak Harutiunian, is to act as defense minister, while National Accord leader Artashes Geghamian is the shadow minister of finance and economy. As for HZhK chairman Stepan Demirchian, he is supposed to become speaker of parliament.
The Hanrapetutyun spokesman, Suren Sureniants, presents to "Aravot" results of opinion polls conducted by his party. Sureniants says that the Armenian public welcomes the efforts aimed at the unification of opposition parties but lacks confidence in their success. He also says many Armenians are undecided about whom they should support in the upcoming presidential elections.
"Hayots Ashkhar" reiterates its belief that only former president Levon Ter-Petrosian and his allies can offer an alternative to policies pursued by Kocharian. The paper says if Ter-Petrosian refuses to stand in the February election, Kocharian will be the only "real candidate."
"Aravot" suspects that the United States and other major Western powers have agreed to turn a blind eye to a possible Russian military campaign against Georgia in return for Moscow acquiescing in the forcible ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The paper says the big powers seem to be again dividing their zones of influence at the expense of smaller and weaker nations. Russia, it says, is not only concerned with destroying Chechen rebel bases in Georgia's Pankisi gorge but is intent on once again holding sway in the entire South Caucasus. Armenia, which is totally disinterested in a Russian-Georgian conflict and opposed to a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, is thus becoming a "hostage of September 11."