(Saturday, February 27)
“Hraparak” says the Armenian authorities’ decision to raise the price of natural gas for households by over 37 percent is a measure of their self-confidence. The paper notes that it came amid virtually daily street protests staged by various small entrepreneurs and ahead of the March 1 second anniversary of the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. It claims that all this might result in a “revolutionary situation” in Armenia. “Are the authorities prepared for such a development, and what steps do they plan? Do they think that the methods of intimidation coercion always work and that it is possible to restrain popular anger with them?”
Lragir.am likewise suggests that the authorities are sure Armenians will digest the latest price hike as they are “not the kind of people that do revolutions.” “Life and time have always proved the righteousness of that government mindset,” says the online paper. Up until now, that is, it adds.
Speaking to “Hayots Ashkhar” Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), says the opposition actions in March 2008 were “mass disturbances” that could have led to a civil war. “If the authorities had been weak and had not thwarted [the opposition scenario] the developments would have led to that war,” he claims. “The authorities and, in particular, the police were obliged to calm tempers and clashes were therefore inevitable.” Zohrabian also says that unlike the opposition, the authorities are “drawing lessons” from those events.
“Zhamanak” says the dominant view in Armenia is that former President Robert Kocharian did not quite leave the political arena after handing over power to Serzh Sarkisian in April 2008. The pro-opposition paper dismisses statements to the contrary made by Kocharian’s office. But it says Kocharian’s plight is “not quite enviable.” “Robert Kocharian will increasingly be remembered during conversations about problems that arose or deepened during his rule and brought about domestic political and societal crises,” speculates the paper. “They won’t allow him to return.”
“Azg” reports that Russia has changed its co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Yuri Merzlyakov. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman is quoted as downplaying the move at a news briefing on Friday.