“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the Armenian government has decided to partly compensate farmers for last week’s increase in the price of irrigation water. The move followed a visit by several ministers to the central Kotayk region where they faced a hostile reception from local residents. The paper says the authorities have realized that they are really disliked by the population. There is now talk of suspending the ongoing massive staff cuts in secondary schools.
In another report, “Haykakan Zhamanak” says the government has admitted spending $40,000 on a new car used by Minister of Urban Development Ara Aramian. But the paper insists that the SUV cost even more than that. Sniping at Aramian’s Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party, it asks sarcastically: “Does it take jeeps purchased with state funds to build a country of law?”
“Aravot” reports that unlike senior government officials opposition leader Artashes Geghamian was “warmly” received by Kotayk residents on Wednesday. “The opposition is united in its resolve to achieve regime change,” he told them. “We don’t hate the regime as much as they hate each other.” Geghamian complained that the international community has not been “principled and consistent” enough in promoting Armenia’s democratization. He also urged opposition supporters to prepare for a popular revolt against the authorities. “We are going to hold a national rally either in late April or early May,” he said.
“Azg” accuses the U.S. embassy in Yerevan of “forming favorable public opinion on Turkey” and scolds the Armenian opposition for playing to the Americans’ tune. The paper is not convinced by Ambassador John Ordway’s assurances that President George W. Bush did not call for regime change in Armenia when he said last week that the November “revolution of roses” in Georgia should serve as an example to the rest of the world.
“Hayots Ashkhar” carries a mock report saying that Vache Manukian, the London-based Armenian tycoon, is ready to provide $100 million for bringing down President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The paper says former Prime Minster Armen Sarkisian, Manukian’s close associate who also lives in Britain, has been bombarded with phone calls from public figures from Armenia who offer their “cooperation.” It says among them are the country’s leading pollsters who promise “to lower Kocharian’s approval rating to 5 percent” in return for cash. Armenian prosecutors, for their part, are ready to bring embezzlement charges against Kocharian if they are paid $30 million.
“All of this is from science fiction,” “Hayots Ashkhar” explains. “Though who can say now where reality ends and fiction starts? The boundaries [between them] have been erased, they just don’t exist. So maybe someone will pop up to invest, like a fair tale hero, large sums today in the hope of getting thousands of times more tomorrow.”