“Hayots Ashkhar” claims that Armenia and Azerbaijan are treated equally by the Council of Europe regardless of the degree of their compliance with their membership commitments. The paper says the human rights watchdog is ready to drop its insistence on the passage by Azerbaijan of a law on alternative service and thereby increase the likelihood of an Azerbaijani military attack on Armenia.
According to “Iravunk,” the Karabakh issue is not the only external factor that might provoke the downfall of the current Armenian regime in 2004. Equally challenging for President Robert Kocharian will be the continuing fallout from “electoral falsifications” committed by his government last year. Citing vice-speaker of parliament Tigran Torosian, the paper says in particular that the Council of Europe has given Armenia until the end of this year to punish those guilty of vote rigging. “The implementation of such a process could cause serious inner-government shocks,” it says. “And it is not difficult to foresee that the job of punishing vote riggers will be bungled (if it will be carried out at all) and by the end of the year there will again be unpleasant moments in [Armenia’s] relations with the Council of Europe.”
Also contributing to regime instability, “Iravunk” continues, will be Kocharian’s search for a political successor and his “various games with the superpowers.” “But the year begins with difficulties not only for the government but also the opposition.” The paper says only “resolute actions” can shore up opposition positions in the country.
A spokesman for the opposition Hanrapetutyun party assures “Aravot” that it has already worked out a “concrete program of political actions” aimed at overthrowing Kocharian. Hanrapetutyun will try to put it into practice regardless of whether or not it is backed by its opposition allies, he says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” writes that the extraparliamentary “liberal” groups supporting former President Levon Ter-Petrosian could become part of a new broad-based opposition alliance which now seems to be taking shape. The paper recalls that both Hanrapetutyun and Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity Party have until now avoided teaming up with the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), but are now ready to cooperate with the latter. “The opposition camp is perfectly aware that if they fail to force a referendum of confidence [in Kocharian], all constitutional ways of bidding farewell to Kocharian will be exhausted.” Hence, the opposition intention to hold a series of demonstrations in Yerevan and other parts of the country in the coming weeks.