(Saturday, February 18)
“Zhamanak” says the street protests against the construction of several shops in a public park in Yerevan are a litmus test for the Armenian government’s stated commitment to reform and accountability. The paper says the authorities’ refusal to bow to the protests shows their true attitude to the public. “When Serzh Sarkisian became president he declared that he will tear down the wall of misunderstanding [between the people and the government,]” it says. “Of course, nobody believed in what he said … During his presidency Sarkisian has had many opportunities to tear down that wall … but he has built a new wall between himself and citizens.”
“Aravot” says the young activists campaigning against the shop construction reserve utmost respect because they do not fight for power. “We don’t know just how legal the construction of shops in the Mashtots Park is because both the municipality and environmentalists come up with piles of documents which probably can be understood only by lawyers,” editorializes the paper. “But we know two things. First, there is no lack of boutiques and cafes in central Yerevan. Second, construction in the centers of European capitals is banned.”
“168 Zham” attacks Ara Yernjakian, a pro-government theater director, who visited the park on Friday to criticize the protesters and defend the construction. The paper suggests that the municipality did not ask Yernjakian to do that. “Apparently, Yernjkian simply thought that it’s a nice opportunity to sell himself at a higher price,” it says.
“Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” puts a brave face on the opposition candidate Sasun Mikaelian’s defeat in the February 12 mayoral election in Hrazdan. The opposition paper says the vote demonstrated that many Armenians do not sell their votes. It claims that the Mikaelian’s strong showing left the authorities in “serious panic.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports on the latest rise in fuel prices in Armenia. “The price rise did not bypass the market for diesel fuel this time around,” writes the paper.