“Hayots Ashkhar” argues that the Armenian opposition should not hold a rally on October 17, two days after a presidential election in Azerbaijan, because that could deflect the international spotlight from what the paper believes will be a highly fraudulent vote. Since the legitimacy of the Armenian authorities will be the main theme of the opposition protest, the paper fears that the ruling regimes in Baku and Yerevan will be regarded by the international community as equally undemocratic.
“The United States needs to have a strong opposition in Azerbaijan which will spoil a weak and inexperienced Ilham Aliev right from the beginning by making him manageable for [the U.S.],” “Hayots Ashkhar” claims. “But the USA expects concessions not only from the Azerbaijani but also Armenian leadership in order to achieve a quick settlement of the Karabakh conflict.” Washington, it speculates, would therefore like to remind Yerevan that it is not just the Armenian opposition that has “serious reservations” about the legitimacy of President Robert Kocharian’s reelection.
But as “Azg” writes, Ilham has managed until now to maintain a balance in his country’s relations with the U.S. and Russia. That will give him a blank check to neutralize the Azerbaijani opposition following his widely anticipated electoral victory. “But nobody can say what Moscow’s and Washington’s policy on Azerbaijan will be after the elections,” the paper says. It says although both countries are interested in the Aliev clan’s continued grip on power, Ilham’s political future depends on his actions.
Armenia’s political elite is also preparing for an election, albeit a local one. Newspaper expect a tough struggle in Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district whose incumbent prefect, Artsrun Khachatrian, is challenged by the son of Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “Iravunk” says Khachatrian is backed by Armenia’s powerful deputy prosecutor-general, Aghvan Hovsepian. Furthermore, the HHK’s coalition partners, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir, do not rush to endorse Arman Sahakian, something which the paper presents as another sign of disagreements inside the ruling coalition.
“Yerkir” is skeptical about the government’s growing promises to alleviate economic hardship suffered by a large part of the population. The paper complains that government officials talk too much about various poverty reduction initiatives but can boast few tangible results. Still, it pins some hopes on passage of a government bill on a minimum “consumer basket, saying that the government should prove that it is serious about achieving the legislation’s goals.