(Saturday, January 14)
In an interview with “168 Zham” Prime Minister Andranik Markarian plays down the significance of a new political party set up Armenian “oligarch” Gagik Tsarukian. “You can’t create a powerful party in one year or six months,” he says. “It may only have powerful resources. But these are different things.” Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party may spend “enormous resources” to enter parliament. But that, he says, is not enough to win a parliamentary election. Markarian admits that Prosperous Armenia will compete with his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “But that does not terrify us, because we have always competed with others and are not scared of the existence of an extra force.”
The Armenian premier at the same time does not refute reports that he and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian have met Tsarukian in recent weeks to discourage him from setting up the party. “Meetings have been taking place and the issue of the expediency of [forming] that party is also being discussed. But we have not told them, ‘Do not create it as you will harm us.’ It will create certain difficulties for us, but of course they can be overcome,” he says. Markarian further makes the point that Tsarukian “can not be in opposition” to Armenia’s current leadership.
Another HHK leader, Galust Sahakian, tells “Aravot” that Prosperous Armenia will play a “positive role” in Armenian politics. “It will perform the role of a filter, but in the structural, rather than political or ideological sense,” he says. “This party will be powerful but I don’t think its power will manifest itself in parliament,” Sahakian adds vaguely.
“Golos Armenii” says the new year 2006 will finally convince Armenians that “in our country the main tool of politics is money.” The year, says the paper, will shatter all remaining “illusions about the compatibility of morality and politics” in Armenia.
“So what does Prosperous Armenia have? Money,” writes “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” “Apparently lots of money.” The paper says that money will likely be spent on buying votes and bribing election commission officials.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” describes Victor Dallakian, an opposition politician who is poised to become the nominal leader of Prosperous Armenia, as a “political trump” who has repeatedly switched sides throughout his political career. The paper says Prosperous Armenia is the brainchild of President Robert Kocharian who needs a 100 percent reliable support base upon which he can rely after completing his second term in office in 2008. It claims that Kocharian will use Prosperous Armenia to either illegally run for a third term or become prime minister. That means he has to ensure that Prosperous Armenia wins or at least makes a strong showing in the 2007 parliamentary election. After all, Armenia’s amended constitution stipulates that the prime minister of the republic must be a figure acceptable to the parliament majority.