According to “Aravot,” the Armenian authorities have dragged their feet over the abolition of the death penalty for purely “populist considerations.” They feared that the move would play badly with the electorate in this year’s elections. “It can be said that our bloodthirsty society will hardly approve the abolition of the death penalty anytime soon,” the paper says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the current Armenian parliament is far more “obedient” to the executive than the previous one. “Thus, yet another obstacle to our ‘integration into Europe’ has been overcome,” the paper says disapprovingly. “It appears that the September session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly will be more forgiving towards Armenia which has held disgraceful presidential and parliamentary elections.”
“When it comes to elections, they recall [Armenian] national mentality. But when it comes to abolishing death penalty, they cite state interests,” opposition leader Stepan Demirchian tells “Ayb-Fe.” “European values are cited by those individuals who justify those [vote] falsifications and violence. If we are to integrate into Europe and embrace universal values, we must start from enabling the people to form a government by themselves. It must not be seized by a group of people.”
Interviewed by “Hayots Ashkhar,” parliament vice-speaker Vahan Hovannisian admits that if the issue was put on a referendum (as was suggested by Demirchian’s Artarutyun bloc) most Armenians would likely vote for keeping capital punishment. “This has happened in many countries because the issue of capital punishment has not only a legal but also social dimension,” he says. The ratification of the Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights was a “serious step towards defusing our tensions with the Council of Europe resulting from the elections,” Hovannisian says. “But it doesn’t mean that the shortcomings registered during the elections can be disguised with a solution to this problem. The fact that we are being criticized for those shortcomings means that clear steps need to be taken to rectify them.”
“Ayb-Fe” says the parliament also passed in the second reading on Tuesday a bill that will empower President Robert Kocharian to single-handedly select and appoint a special human rights ombudsman. The paper predicts that that ombudsman will be a member of the presidential team and will hardly challenge the regime to respect human rights, as is hoped by the Council of Europe. “We will deceive Europe and ourselves [into thinking] that we have an ombudsman. But in reality we will have something which is worse than what we don’t have.”
“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” comments that Artarutyun follows a hypocritical line by expressing readiness to cooperate with the pro-Kocharian majority in parliament and at the same time refusing to recognize the regime’s legitimacy.
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports that the owner of Armenia’s power distribution network, the British-registered Midland Resources Holding, has still not come up with a long-term investment plan despite its contractual obligations. The paper doubts that the company really intends to seriously upgrade the power grids in the near future. And there is little the Armenian government can do about that, it says. Midland Resources has only promised to invest $4.2 million over the next 12 months, whereas energy experts put the minimum amount of required investments at $150 million. The investment bonanza promised by the government has thus failed to materialize. The government either miscalculated positive effects of the sector’s 2002 privatization or deliberately misled the public, according to “Hayots Ashkhar.”