Citing unnamed sources, “Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian has spent his summer holiday in the city of Monte Carlo, extensively gambling in its world-famous casinos. He is said to have been accompanied by Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian, Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian and millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian. The paper claims the chief of the Armenian customs service, Armen Avetisian, had to wire Sarkisian a large amount of cash after the latter “lost his money in the casinos.” Defense Ministry’s press service, Seyran Shahsuvarian, refused to comment on the information. Abrahamian, for his part, confirmed his visiting Monte Carlo, but insisted that he was there with his family and did not gamble. Manukian made similar comments.
“Iravunk” comments that the latest Pan-Armenian Games in Yerevan were used by President Robert Kocharian as a publicity stunt aimed at impressing the Diaspora Armenians. The paper says that instead of making much-advertised appearances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, Kocharian should have dealt with “more pressing and contentious issues.”
“Aravot” reports that leaders of the three pro-presidential parties making up Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s cabinet continue to downplay differences inside the coalition. “We want to hope that the results of this collective responsibility will also be felt by the socially destitute people,” the paper says. “The coalition considers its programs somewhat socially-oriented and finds poverty reduction important. If these are not empty words, then the pensions must be raised not by 20 or 200 drams, but by several times.”
Opposition lawmaker Victor Dallakian, meanwhile, urges those parties to join the Artarutyun bloc’s push for a referendum of confidence in Kocharian. Quoted by “Hayots Ashkhar,” Dallakian emphasizes that the idea was floated by the Constitutional Court which thereby recognized the crisis of legitimacy in Armenia.
Artarutyun’s plans for a renewed campaign of street protests and other forms of pressure on the regime are unlikely to be backed by another opposition group, Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity Party. A top Geghamian aide, Aleksan Karapetian, tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that National Unity believes that “the country would, as a result, experience a political setback.” “On the contrary, we will do everything to maintain internal stability in the country so that the authorities can meet their key challenge: the Artsakh issue,” he says.
In an interview with “Haykakan Zhamanak,” former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian calls the Armenian government’s latest macroeconomic data “seriously distorted.” “The economic growth statistics presented by them resemble the Central Election Commission’s figures,” he says. “But economics is a more complicated sphere and number fixing can not remain without consequences here and will definitely bring to surface discrepancies with reality and logic.” Bagratian is also unhappy with the Demirchian-led opposition, saying that only he and other prominent allies of Levon Ter-Petrosian offer a viable alternative to the current regime.
As “Golos Armenii” points out, ordinary Armenians still do not feel benefits of the growth despite Kocharian’s pre-election assurances. “People continue to live very badly, and from their standpoint, this economic growth and stability benefits only those who augment their already huge capital every day,” the paper says.