The sudden selection of the Lebanese-owned K-Telecom firm as Armenia’s second mobile phone operator has caught Armenian newspapers off guard. Their dominant view is that the deal with the subsidiary of Karabakh Telecom is at best questionable.
“Hayots Ashkhar” reacts to the news with a string of questions. “When, by whom and under which circumstances was the tender for the mobile phone service licenses? How many companies took part in it and with what proposals?”
“There have been overnight trials in Armenia but an overnight tender is held for the first time,” reacts “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The paper says it asked one of the owners of K-Telecom, Ralph Yirikian, when the company plans to launch its wireless network in Armenia. “I must first go to a church and light a candle,” he replied. “I can answer your question a few days later.”
“Ayb-Fe” says the purported tender violated an Armenian law regulating competitive biddings. “Why was everything done secretly and why is every official refusing to answer questions after the tender?”
“The very name of that company suggests thanks to whom it enters Armenia’s extremely lucrative mobile phone market without any tender,” writes “Iravunk,” hinting at the Karabakh roots of Armenia’s two most powerful leaders. “It is no secret that this company is suspected of having shadowy business links with senior Armenian officials.” The paper claims that the government has already similarly “criminal” ties with the ArmenTel operator. It predicts that ArmenTel will almost certainly collude with its new competitor in setting mobile phone tariffs.
“The result of the American presidential elections should not have a negative impact on U.S.-Armenian relations,” says “Hayots Ashkhar.” The paper says it would be very wrong to associate the Armenian-American community’s strong support for George W. Bush’s Democratic challenger John Kerry with the policy of official Yerevan. It is confident that “the U.S.-Armenian partnership will continue to deepen because Armenia’s lasting interests and prospects for the resolution of the Karabakh problem greatly depend on its content.”
Also looking forward to Bush’s second term in office is opposition leader Aram Sarkisian. “I am convinced that the Bush administration will give a new impetus to those processes that began in Armenia and slowed down for a while because their aims are good,” he tells “Haykakan Zhamanak.” “For the first time in the last five years Kocharian is not lucky because in the event of a Kerry win it would have been possible to play for time, whereas after Bush’s victory the noose around both Armenia and Ukraine will tighten and there will definitely be positive changes.”
According to “Ayb-Fe,” the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) will be the first party to leave the ruling coalition because it has less to lose than its partners. But it says the Dashnaks will not do that in the next one or two years.
“Aravot” reports that one of the top Dashnaktsutyun leaders, deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovannisian, hit a metal pole and broke his arm on his way home two days ago. “Friends assure that Mr. Hovannisian was absolutely sober: if he was drunk he would definitely notice the pole,” the paper says in a mischievous reference to Hovannisian’s reported drinking problems.