“Iravunk” says the “external political environment” is bound to influence what it sees as rising political tensions in Armenia ahead of the November 27 constitutional referendum. The paper claims that among the external factors that are having a bearing on Armenian politics is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map.”
“Iravunk” also comments on Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s continuing visit to the United States. “Washington is now seeking to clinch maximum concessions from Armenia’s leadership in exchange for not helping the [Armenian] opposition to use the constitutional referendum as an occasion for revolution,” speculates the paper. “They hope in Washington that if not at the beginning but at least in the middle of 2006 they will have Yerevan’s signature under a Karabakh peace accord.”
Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that the current political situation bodes for a “positive course and outcome of the referendum.” “Armenia will thereby really cut the invisible thread with which we are being continuously tied to Azerbaijan like Siamese twins,” he says. Torosian believes that Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan will hardly be described as democratic by the international community.
“Aravot” wonders why the intellectuals protesting against the construction of more noisy cafes around Yerevan’s Chamber Music Hall did not take to the streets in defense of Yerevan residents controversially evicted from their homes. “When the president’s bodyguard killed a man, when a TV company was closed, when a 18-year-old girl who took part in opposition demonstrations was tortured at a police station, the mentioned intellectuals did not protest against that because it was dangerous,” says the paper. “Now saying no to the constitutional changes is dangerous.” The paper points to a joint statement by pro-establishment intellectuals that urged Armenians to vote for the amendments on November 27. The signatories head Soviet-era organizations uniting writers, composers and other artists.
Citing unnamed sources in the Armenian customs, “168 Zham” reports that a large quantity of petrol was smuggled to Armenia recently. “An instruction has been given to use proceeds from the sale of that petrol for propagating a ‘yes’ vote at the referendum,” says the paper. “That is apparently the reason why petrol prices in the republic are not going down, despite the fact that after last August’s worldwide rise the petrol prices have begun to fall and return to the August level.”
In a separate report, “168 Zham” says that the French group Pernod Ricard intended to pay $70 million for the Yerevan Brandy Factory in 1998. The paper alleges that the French eventually paid $28 million after bribing senior Armenian officials.