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Press Review


(Saturday, August 3)

“Aravot” finds the Armenian opposition’s stance on constitutional reform “vulnerable,” arguing that its leaders’ speeches in parliament were short on specifics. The potential opposition electorate, which the paper believes makes up the vast majority of the population, was left wondering whether it should boycott the November referendum or take part in it and say no to the constitutional amendments. The paper concludes that “this ambiguous situation makes it easier for the authorities to falsify the referendum.”

“The opposition has placed itself beyond the process,” a senior member of the governing Republican Party, Gagik Minasian, tells “Hayots Ashkhar.” “This means that other forces will occupy the [opposition] field in the near future.” Minasian also says that the referendum must not be rigged by the authorities “even if the public does not come out in favor of the constitutional changes.”

“Golos Armenii” notes that among those who are campaigning for a yes vote at the referendum are “the oligarchs who bought parliamentary mandates for themselves, their friends and relatives” and “discredited bureaucrats.” That is why, says the paper, the Armenian opposition has quickly “attracted the disaffected public to its side.” It believes that the ruling coalition was defeated by the opposition during the constitutional debates in the National Assembly.

Interviewed by “Aravot,” opposition politician David Shahnazarian calls for a popular boycott of the referendum. “Supporting these constitutional amendments is tantamount to saying that Robert Kocharian will illegally remain president of Armenia for a third and fourth terms,” he claims. “In reality, the content of constitutional reforms is of secondary importance to Kocharian. The main thing is the very fact of changes. If Kocharian manages to pass the referendum, he will get another statement from the Constitutional Court and again run for president.”

“Hayots Ashkhar” notes in this regard that opposition leaders fear a third Kocharian term “like death.” The paper says Kocharian has repeatedly dismissed “nonsensical” speculation about him planning to stay in power after 2008.

Gagik Beglarian, the incumbent prefect of Yerevan’s central administrative district, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that his main opposition challenger at the upcoming local election can not defeat him without ballot box stuffing. Beglarian, better known to many Armenians with his Black Gago nickname, criticizes the opposition for “politicizing” the post which he has occupied for the last three years.

“Aravot” reports that Armenian law-enforcement agencies, including the National Security Services, have been instructed to closely follow the local polls in Yerevan. In particular, says the paper, the police chiefs of the city districts that will see elections have been ordered to collect detailed information about “undesirable candidates,” their family members and supporters. The paper says that “compromising material” will be needed for suppressing their possible protest actions against vote rigging.

(Hrach Melkumian)
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