(Saturday, February 18)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that before Friday’s election of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman the pro-presidential factions in the Armenian parliament agreed to have their members mark their supposedly secret ballots in a distinct way that would allow for a party-by-party breakdown of votes for presidential adviser Armen Harutiunian. The unusual arrangement was meant to convince President Robert Kocharian that they did not block his candidate. “This humiliation was imposed on parliament after the previous vote when the government candidate for the post of human rights defender, Armen Harutiunian, failed to garner enough votes and it proved impossible to clarify during inner-coalition arguments which political force had pulled the carpet,” explains the paper.
“Aravot” says the National Assembly resembled on Friday a gathering of mobsters, saying that even those parliament deputies who rarely attend parliament sessions showed up to cast their ballots for Armen Harutiunian. “They did not hide that they have come to carry out the boss’s order,” says the paper. It says the pro-Kocharian factions were bullied into ensuring Harutiunian’s election.
“Azg” reports that among the deputies who were spotted inside the parliament building for the first time in many months was tycoon Gagik Tsarukian.
“Hayots Ashkhar” notes with irony that Tsarukian’s “visit” to the National Assembly was rather brief. The paper says Tsarukian’s was asked by journalists who can join his newly created party. “Whoever wants to,” he replied. “Our doors are open. We don’t care [whether you are in] opposition or government.”
According to “168 Zham,” Tsarukian also complained that the Armenian media is paying little attention to the participation of Armenian athletes in the ongoing winter Olympic games in Turin. But Tsarukian did not mention their extremely modest achievements, speaking instead about their uniforms. The paper observes that the Armenian athletes have the pretentious logo of Tsarukian’s Multi-Group company emblazoned on their backs. It says the tycoon further admitted that the Armenian parliament is “not my place.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says another deputy whose rare presence in the parliament is proof of an “emergency situation” is Levon Sargsian. Sargsian, better known with his roguish “Alraghatsi Lyov” nickname, also took part in the election of Armenia’s top human rights official. The paper says he looked bemused after being handed a ballot. “What should I do now?” he whispered to a member of the parliamentary election commission. “You should cross out [the name of opposition candidate] Hrant [Khachatrian],” replied the latter. “‘Poor Hrant,’ said Alraghatsi Lyov and entered the polling booth,” concludes the paper.
“As a result of the Rambouillet talks we got a document [on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] that was acceptable to the [Minsk Group] co-chairs but was not acceptable to the Azerbaijanis,” “Hayots Ashkhar” quotes Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian as saying. The document was also acceptable to the Armenian side, he says. “I don’t think that there was a failure at Rambouillet,” Sarkisian adds, hinting that the Armenian side can again claim the moral high ground in the peace process.