“We believe that Armenia will become stronger if it holds democratic elections that are essential for the legitimacy of elected officials,” the now former U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, tells the Mediamax news agency in an interview published by “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun.” Evans reveals that the U.S. government was “advised” by experts last year to stop supporting and training activists from various political parties but decided to carry on with such pro-democracy programs.
“Aravot” carries a separate Mediamax interview with another U.S. official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, in which he says that the proper conduct of the next Armenian elections is also essential for the disbursement of U.S. assistance under the Millennium Challenge Account program. Bryza says the U.S. government will closely follow and take into account the evaluations of the World Bank and Freedom House. “There is a theoretic possibility that if the elections prove extremely disputed, those evaluations will change and Armenia will no longer meet MCA standards,” he is quoted as saying. “In that case, we will have to stop the program’s implementation.”
Former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian assures “Iravunk” that there are no major disagreements between President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. “Robert Kocharian has helped to strengthen the Republican Party so that wealthy and influential deputies, who have never been affiliated with any party before, join the HHK ranks,” he says. “Today all governors and community chiefs are members of the HHK. Without Robert Kocharian’s consent no one holding such positions would join the Republicans.”
According to “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun,” the fact that the criminal investigation into the killing of tax official Shahen Hovasapian is conducted by Armenia’s National Security Service shows that Kocharian is indeed interested in seeing the crime solved. “Perhaps the reason is that Hovasapian was widely considered a Kocharian crony, one of the most trusted and loyal ones,” says the paper. “It may be that Kocharian took Hovasapian’s murder as a gauntlet thrown at him.”
“Iravunk” accuses the Armenian Central Bank of “criminal complicity” in the renewed appreciation of the Armenian dram. The paper alleges that the bank’s monetary policy is “plundering and making bankrupt” Armenians.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says a further strengthening of the dram is “somewhat beneficial” for the Central Bank. “The Central Bank has trouble meeting the inflation target set for this year,” explains the paper, pointing in particular to a new increase in the price of bread. It says a stronger dram does not mean cheaper bread in Armenia “because there is no competition and because prices are not market-based and are at the mercy of importers.”