(Saturday, May 24)
Commenting on Friday’s anti-government rally in Yerevan, “Hayots Ashkhar” says the Armenian opposition is “in its death throes,” while “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” claims that its leaders have “lost hope” of launching a popular movement of resistance to the ruling regime. The latter paper argues that the they failed to make good on their pledge to tour areas outside Yerevan to drum up greater public support for their campaign. The opposition will simply drag out that campaign in the knowledge that it will lead nowhere, it concludes.
But according to “Haykakan Zhamanak,” there were “visibly more” people on Friday than during the previous rally held on May 14. The pro-opposition paper puts the attendance at “more than 10,000.” “This means that the government has failed to scale back the opposition movement. But on the other hand, opposition, for its part, still can not step up the campaign of demonstrations with a snowball effect. That said, such a possibility will exist as long as the rallies take place.”
“Azg” grumbles that street protests are becoming an integral part of not only political but also day-to-day life in Armenia without resulting in a “decisive showdown” between the rival sides.
“Aravot” again accuses Dashnaktsutyun leader Vahan Hovannisian of hypocrisy over his refusal to condemn the criminal prosecution of opposition activists charged with advocating a violent overthrow of the regime. The paper again recalls that Hovannisian was sentenced to several years in prison on the same charges under former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. “Why was it possible to release political prisoner Vahan Hovannisian due to regime change [in February 1998] and impossible to immediately release [opposition activist] Suren Sureniants on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s insistence?…Incidentally, Sureniants had also gone on hunger strike in the past in protest against Vahan Hovannisian’s arrest.”
“The Council of Europe and the United States do not allow the Armenian opposition to embark on a dialogue with Armenia’s government,” the parliamentary leader of the governing Republican Party, Galust Sahakian, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak.” Sahakian claims that criticism of the Armenian authorities periodically voiced by the Council of Europe and the U.S. is aimed at “keeping the internal situation in Armenia tense and solving big issues with a weak Armenia.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” trusts President Robert Kocharian’s assurances that Russia supports him in the dispute with the opposition. “Having realized that the opposition is becoming a tool in attempts to corner the Armenian authorities, evidenced most recently by the known resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the annual 2003 report by the U.S. State Department, Russia could not endlessly maintain its seeming indifference to the internal political struggle unfolding in Armenia,” the paper says.
Kocharian’s claims that Moscow has sided with him in the tussle for power are denounced in “Haykakan Zhamanak” by a prominent member of Armenia’s previous leadership, Yerjanik Abgarian. “These statements by Kocharian also show that he counts on the backing of not his people but foreigners in an effort to save his increasingly crumbling rule,” Abgarian writes.