“At issue is not who will become president. At issue is how he will become president,” editorializes “Aravot.” “The election campaign will start soon,” continues the paper. “Candidates will make speeches, give promises, criticize each other. But all of that will be a mere declaration, an external smokescreen. In reality, the fate of the [2008 presidential] elections will be decided elsewhere. A community chief X mired in crime and thousands of officials with criminal groups at their disposal will be working in favor of a certain candidate.”
Citing unnamed sources, “168 Zham” claims that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has asked Hrant Vartanian, a tobacco tycoon connected to the nationalist party, to set aside as much as $10 million for the election campaign of Dashnaktsutyun’s presidential candidate. “According to the same sources, Hrant Vartanian has agreed to the offer,” the paper says, suggesting that the money will be a payback for one of his sons’ recent election to the parliament on the Dashnaktsutyun ticket. “Thus, Dashnaktsutyun will legalize the Armenia-based source of the party’s funding and, therefore, the finance base of its presidential candidate. And it will be spared accusations of being financed from abroad.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the prices of a number of food products and consumer goods in Armenia have increased over the past few days and predicts that “the process will continue.” “It is noteworthy and perhaps pathetic that at its meeting last week the Armenian government decided to raise pensions,” the paper says, claiming that the 60 percent rise may well be nullified by mounting inflation. It accuses the authorities of thereby recouping their expenditures on the last parliamentary elections.
“Aravot” cites “sources close to the government” as saying that General Manvel Grigorian, an influential deputy defense minister and the chairman of the Yerkrapah Union, is poised to be sacked soon. “According to those sources, after bidding farewell to the [defense] ministry General Manvel will move to the Armenian president’s staff as a presidential adviser,” says the paper.
“Hayk” reports on a “clash” between Hovannes Shahinian, mayor of Yerevan’s Arabkir district, and Zohrab Zohrabian, a parliament deputy from the local single-mandate constituency. The paper says the two relatively young men, both of them affiliated with the governing Republican Party (HHK), traded insults and even came to blows in a dispute over underground kiosks which they jointly owned and sold recently. “Shahinian accused Zohrabian of misappropriating proceeds from the sale and demanded his money back,” it says.
“Zhamanak Yerevan” reports that Victor Dallakian, a maverick opposition deputy, has drafted a bill that would obligate fellow lawmakers to wear neckties and white shirts during sessions of the National Assembly. The paper believes that chances of the bill’s passage are slim as only 20 or so of the 131 deputies usually attend parliament sessions in such attire.