(Saturday, January 17)
“Aravot” notes that regular visits to the Strasbourg headquarters of the Council of Europe have a positive impact on the mindset of Armenian politicians who thus get to realize “the importance of European democratic values.” Even former Communist “apparatchiks” and diehard nationalists from the Dashnaktsutyun and Republican parties embrace Western liberal democracy after such trips, the paper says. In particular they have become more tolerant of religious and even sexual minorities and voted to abolish the death penalty in Armenia last year. “Even the most pro-Russian politicians participating in a couple of sessions of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly become staunchly pro-Western.”
The trouble, according to “Aravot,” is that the vast majority of ordinary Armenians do not have a chance to get similarly exposed to European values or even socialize with Europeans. Otherwise, the paper concludes, “the West would not have had problems with us in terms of democracy.”
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian already sees himself as the next president of Armenia. Sarkisian’s recent extensive interview with the Armenian Public Television is presented by Geghamian as the start of his election campaign. “The thing is that Serzh Sarkisian goes to bed and wakes up with one dream: to occupy the post of president,” Geghamian claims. “He realizes that he was the godfather and conductor of the mass irregularities that took place in the last two presidential elections and thinks that ‘If I did that for my friend, why cannot I do the same for myself?’” He adds that the powerful minister would like to seize power in a pre-term election.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the Hanrapetutyun party’s efforts to unite all leading opposition parties seem to be leading nowhere because many of them do not like the idea.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” meanwhile, is alarmed by the mainstream opposition’s growing “tolerance” towards political allies of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. The paper says the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) would love to seize upon this opportunity to impose its agenda on the more popular opposition forces. But it goes on to quote one of the HHSh’s prominent members, Ara Sahakian, as playing down the Hanrapetutyun initiative. Sahakian also indicates that a united opposition front would need to have “a new leader” acceptable to the people.
“Azg” claims that the controversial Culture Minister Tamara Poghosian is facing a growing danger of losing her job and is now desperate to get protection from the leader of her Orinats Yerkir Party, parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. The latter is currently in France on an official visit.