(Saturday, March 6)
“Aravot” says the government ministers made sure that Friday’s meetings with residents of the Aragatsotn region were not marred by angry scenes, filling rural audiences with loyal individuals. But even they would “lose their nerve” and ask nasty questions. “If the meetings continue like this the ministers will hardly endure,” it says.
“No one denies that the social situation is not good and that people are tired, but the root causes of the existing situation must be looked for in the past period,” a senior member of the Dashnaktsutyun party, Hrair Karapetian, tells “Hayots Ashkhar.” “Progress, no matter how slow, is visible.” Karapetian says the government has not properly informed the population about that progress, but is now taking “steps in that direction.”
“The opposition is exploiting things by taking advantage of the population’s ignorance,” says a parliament deputy from another governing party, Orinats Yerkir. Samvel Balasanian gives the unpopular increase in bread prices which he says were caused by external factors. “People understand the situation existing in the country and objective reasons for it,” he tells “Hayots Ashkhar.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” claims that it is not just the opposition deputies who are boycotting parliament sessions. The paper says parliament deputies close to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian are deliberately making no legislative initiatives to undermine parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. It says this is part of Sarkisian’s secret plan to replace Baghdasarian as chairman of the National Assembly. The defense minister is aware that should President Robert Kocharian quit under pressure from the opposition it is the parliament speaker that would succeed him under Armenia’s constitution.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also reports that Friday’s ceremonies marking the 45th birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian were jointly attended by opposition leaders, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other top government and military officials for the first time in four years. The fact that Markarian, chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian, General Manvel Grigorian and other officials stood alongside Sarkisian’s brother Aram and former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian is quite remarkable, according to the pro-opposition daily. They later traveled to the Sarkisian brothers’ home town of Ararat for a separate remembrance reunion. Markarian drank a toast there to the “freedom” of Armen Sarkisian, Vazgen’s second brother jailed for allegedly organizing the December 2002 killing of state television chief Tigran Naghdalian. “What happened astonished those present [at the gathering],” “Haykakan Zhamanak” concludes.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the fact that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili chose Baku as the first destination of his regional trips should not prompt far-reaching conclusions in Armenia. Saakashvili, the paper says, had “pragmatic” motives for doing that. One of the purposes of the visit was to allay Azerbaijani jitters about the new regime in Tbilisi. And Saakashvili wants to use close ties with Azerbaijan against Russia rather than Armenia. “In a word, Georgia’s new leadership is not really interested in deepening Armenia’s isolation.”
Meanwhile, “Azg” and “Aravot” quote Georgian premier Zurab Zhvania as denouncing Dashnaktsutyun’s “provocative” calls for Tbilisi to grant self-rule to the Armenian-populated region of Javakheti. Zhvania at the same time assures Armenian journalists that this had nothing to do with a slight delay in Saakashvili’s visit to Yerevan due later this month.