(Saturday, April 15)
“168 Zham” reports on a new cluster of expensive houses which is springing up on a steep hillside near downtown Yerevan, saying that their owners are not only businessmen but senior state officials, notably parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. The paper says his under-construction villa, pictured on its front page, will be “huge” indeed.
“Golos Armenii” discusses apparent internal divisions within the parliament faction of Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir Party which emerged during Wednesday’s National Assembly vote on a government report on privatization. The paper says this is not the first time that some Orinats Yerkir lawmakers break ranks and effectively side with the government.
Interviewed by “Haykakan Zhamanak,” David Vartanian, the former head of the Department on State Property Management, dismisses Orinats Yerkir criticism of privatization deals struck during his tenure, from 2001-2003. “I don’t quite follow political processes these days, but think the reason [for the criticism] is the pre-election year,” says the former defector from the opposition National Democratic Union. “I see no other reason for making so much noise now that everything is clear and neat.”
“The vicious circle of corruption [in Armenia] begins and ends during elections,” the head of the Armenian affiliate of the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, Amalia Kostanian, tells “Azg.” “Since 2003 our organization has been holding a monitoring of pre-election processes and elections in Armenia, and I can say that the situation worsens every time [an election is held].” Kostanian says Transparency International research has found that the courts, the prosecutor’s office, tax and customs authorities, public healthcare, education, the electoral system and government licensing agencies are perceived to be highly corrupt by most Armenians.
“When one speaks about corruption the first thing that springs to mind is the judicial system,” writes “Aravot.” “And the person who embodies that system is [Justice Minister] David Harutiunian.” The paper considers symbolic the fact that Harutiunian currently represents in the Constitutional Court the interests of those who controversially displaced hundreds of residents of old neighborhoods in central Yerevan. “It can be said that Mr. Harutiunian is defending his own interests as his brothers, relatives and friends are successful involved in a lucrative business called Yerevan’s redevelopment. He is the one who commits illegalities and supposedly enforces justice.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” says it is wrong to think that Iran was ready follow through on its pledge to complete the Hrazdan power plant and that the Armenian government rejected that option, deciding instead to given the facility to Russia. The paper says things are far more complex, claiming that the Russian-Armenian deal resulted from “trilateral agreements” between Moscow, Tehran and Yerevan.