“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” sees government-orchestrated propaganda campaigns unfolding in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the collapse of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks at Rambouillet, France. The paper says the Armenian authorities in particular are keen to “show that they already made huge concessions by agreeing to withdraw from some of the liberated territories and that our society is against that.”
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian comments in “Aravot” on the continuing creation of new pro-presidential parties and their possible threat to the positions of his Orinats Yerkir. “I stand not for shadowy but open and public politics,” he says vaguely. “Times of gray cardinals are gradually and irreversibly becoming a thing of the past.”
According to “Iravunk,” the newly appointed chief of President Robert Kocharian’s staff, Armen Gevorgian, is one of those “gray cardinals.” The paper says Gevorgian already had “enormous shadowy influence” on Kocharian before the appointment. “Not only is he the main gate-keeper for information reaching the president, but also the individual who decides when one or another politician or official will get to talk to Robert Kocharian. He is also notorious for his extremely strict censorship of TV air. In addition, Armen Gevorgian controls numerous businesses and economic levers. Construction of luxury housing in central Yerevan, which has been accompanied by forced evictions of the local population, is mainly associated with his name.”
“The resignation of [Gevorgian’s predecessor] Artashes Tumanian attests to only one thing: Kocharian feels that his positions are quite shaky,” claims “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” The paper believes that Tumanian could not have quit willingly. Senior Armenian officials, it says, just don’t trade such posts for an uncertain political future.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” finds Gevorgian’s appointment natural. “The thing is that in his previous capacity as the top aide to the Armenian president he already had a pretty broad range of responsibilities and functions, and was effectively considered the second most influential figure at the presidential office after Robert Kocharian,” explains the paper.
“Aravot” quotes Ruben Torosian, a veteran opposition activist, as saying that under Armenia’s law on compulsory military service Gevorgian can not hold high-level government positions because he has not served in the army.
“Azg” attacks the Armenian customs, describing it as “one of Armenia’s most corrupt structures.” Citing a 2004 World Bank survey, the paper says nearly half of customs-related expenditures of Armenian exports are bribes paid to various-level customs officers. “And this despite the fact that the country’s president and prime minister constantly talk about doing their best to spur exports. It turns out that their statements do not correspond to reality, to put it mildly.”