April 16 is officially marked in Armenia as Police Day. “Haykakan Zhamanak” is the only newspaper to devote a comment to the holiday. However, its content is anything but celebratory. The paper says President Robert Kocharian has good reason to be happy with the Armenian police. “The police have played an extremely large role in retaining Kocharian’s power,” it writes, referring to the post-election crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
Pointing to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, “Aravot” comments that a president not elected by his people can not have a strong support base. “This is true of not only the Iraqis but also every other people,” the paper says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says leaders of the pro-president parties take every opportunity to attack each other. The paper claims that leaders of the Dashnaktsutyun party and their ally and tobacco magnate Hrant Vartanian harshly criticized Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian at a meeting last week. The Dashnaks and Markarian’s Republicans, it says, admit that they have failed to reach agreement regarding next month’s parliamentary elections.
A senior member of Stepan Demirchian’s Artarutyun (Justice) alliance tells “Orran” that it will win a majority in the next parliament if the elections are free and fair. Grigor Harutiunian also dismisses government offers of “dialogue,” saying that would be impossible without “normal elections.” He says the authorities and the opposition should first of all work together in averting more vote falsifications. “ Do they want the opposition to agree to a dialogue and say, ‘Shut up, we’ll give you this many seats in the National Assembly’? We don’t need such a dialogue,” he says.
“Ayb-Fe” says fewer and fewer people attend anti-government rallies held by Artarutyun. The reason for that, according to the paper, is the “ambiguous stance of the opposition leaders.” “The people get bored not only because no concrete steps are taken but also because they hear no interesting ideas. The opposition now knows only what it doesn’t want. That is, it doesn’t want Kocharian. What it does want is not yet known.”
“Yerkir” fears that vote buying could have a serious impact on the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The paper says a parliament dominated by deputies who simply bought their seats can not pass important laws needed for Armenia. It hints that there quite a few of them in the outgoing National Assembly. These lawmakers rarely attend parliament sessions and show little interest in legislative work. That is why, according to “Yerkir,” the parliament now fails to make a quorum.