“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that political parties in Nagorno-Karabakh are “actively preparing” for parliamentary elections scheduled for July 19. A leader of the local branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) is quoted as saying that a strong opposition showing is needed to force the Karabakh government to “serve our people and our statehood.” “Dashnaktsutyun members are also concerned that [Karabakh President Arkady] Ghukasian could attempt to take part in the presidential elections of 2007. That would mean a third term for him.”
Eduard Aghabekian, the mayor of Stepanakert who leads another opposition group, is also unhappy with Ghukasian, deploring “social polarization, the existence of monopolies and the extreme reduction of the state’s role in economic affairs.” Aghabekian tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that the Karabakh government must resign if the opposition wins the elections. “And the presidential system [of governance] must be changed to semi-presidential,” he adds. Aghabekian believes that Ghukasian’s overwhelming control of government “contradicts Artsakh’s traditions.” “Karabakh was for centuries ruled by meliks (princes) that had equal rights and every problem was solved [by them] around lamb meal.”
“Azg” endorses the argument that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s regular threats to restart the Karabakh war should not be taken seriously. “His objective is not war, but exploiting the readiness for war for political purposes,” says the paper.
“Iravunk” speculates that “U.S. pressure” on Armenia is aimed at forcing President Robert Kocharian to accept a U.S.-backed plan on Karabakh, rather than promoting Armenia’s democratization. The paper makes the point that Washington would have trouble getting a democratically elected Armenian president to embrace an unpopular peace deal. But it adds that Kocharian is still able to “play for time.”
“Iravunk” says in a separate report that Armenian security services and polling organizations have been instructed to find out what ordinary people think of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s presidential ambitions. “Polls have shown that Serzh Sarkisian’s real rating, including the so-called administrative and security resources, do not exceed 23 percent. About 70 percent of those polled were categorically against the prospect of the defense minister becoming the president of Armenia.” The paper says the polling data led members of the ruling elite to question Sarkisian’s chances of succeeding Kocharian.
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports that the Georgian government’s renewed demands for the withdrawal of Russian troops are threatening to destabilize the situation in the Armenian-populated Javakheti region where the Russian military is the main employer. The local Armenians rallied at the weekend against a possible closure of the base, again exposing their socioeconomic grievances. The paper accuses the government in Tbilisi of reneging on its pledge to address those grievances. “In essence, Georgia’s new authorities are not going farther than their predecessors did.”