(Saturday, December 17)
“Hayots Ashkhar” gives a hard-hitting coverage of Friday’s opposition rally in Yerevan. The paper observes that it is not just the number of people attending anti-government demonstrations that is decreasing, but also that of opposition leaders willing to address such protests. The paper says seven of the nine parties making up the Artarutyun alliance “boycotted the last rally.” That “could not have failed to disappoint the few activists weary of the civic movement.”
“This phase of rallies has demonstrated that many of the [opposition] leaders will use popular demand in large-scale actions for their personal or parochial interests,” comments “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” The paper believes that opposition leader Aram Sarkisian has been left alone in campaigning against the authorities. “Others are ready to stand by his side only in one case: if a lot of people gather.”
Galust Sahakian of the Republican Party tells “Azg” that the opposition activities could intensify squabbles within the governing coalition “to the detriment of our state.” Sahakian predicts that some members of the coalition will start engaging in “gray populism” next spring with the aim of winning more votes in the 2007 elections. “I consider this very dangerous,” he says.
“The opposition is doing extremely well because 90 percent of the people rejected the authorities and boycotted the referendum,” Artarutyun’s Victor Dallakian tells “Azg.” “That 90 percent means that the opposition army can be reinforced.” “Do you see what’s going on inside the coalition?” continues Dallakian. “They insult each other … Opposition leaders have never resorted to personal insults.” He also says that the Karabakh peace process could spark “certain political developments” in February. “We will crack their heads,” he concludes.
“Golos Armenii” attacks another opposition leader, Raffi Hovannisian, over his angry letter to President Robert Kocharian. The pro-presidential paper says that by referring to Kocharian as “acting president” Hovannisian offended thousands of Armenians who voted for Kocharian in 2003. It claims that the U.S.-born politician would not have dared to label George W. Bush in a similar fashion.
“No settlement of the Karabakh problem is looming on the horizon,” another oppositionist, Vazgen Manukian, tells “168 Zham.” “There is now way Azerbaijan will come to terms anytime soon with the notion that Karabakh does not belong to it.” Nor will the Armenians agree to give Karabakh back to Azerbaijan, he argues. Manukian believes that the Armenian-Azerbaijani “cold war” will continue for years to come. Armenia, he says, can not win it without sweeping political and economic reforms.
“Aravot” quotes a pro-government lawmaker, Hermine Naghdalian, as saying that the 2008 presidential election will be free and fair and will be won by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. “Assuming, of course, that he runs for president,” she says. “His intellectual potential and experience in state work is what makes him worthy of being president of Armenia.”