The Armenian authorities’ decision to lift former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s immunity from prosecution makes front-page headlines in Friday’s Yerevan papers.
“At one point during this already long-running investigation it looked as though the authorities are stepping back and the criminal case will be closed soon,” writes “Hraparak.” “But that, as it turned out, was calm before the storm.” The paper is convinced that the authorities lack the evidence to prosecute Oskanian on money laundering or tax evasion charges. “But we are just as confident the National Assembly will agree to [allow Oskanian’s prosecution,]” it says. “One thing is clear: the authorities are escalating the situation.”
“Zhamanak” suggests that the move is directed against not so much Oskanian as former President Robert Kocharian, describing the latter as the ex-minister’s “political commander.” “In essence, this is an accusation against Robert Kocharian,” claims the paper. “It’s just that since Kocharian is playing through Oskanian for the moment, Serzh Sarkisian is threatening Kocharian through Oskanian. And it will probably depend on Kocharian whether or not the authorities will arrest Oskanian or will content themselves with charging him ahead of the presidential elections.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” notes that the Armenian parliament will decide Oskanian’s fate in a secret ballot. That, it says, will be “a big test” for the parliament deputies. The paper also predicts that Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian will finally make its first appearance in the current National Assembly.
“Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” claims that the Armenian opposition is now in a stronger position than it was five years ago. The paper says that opposition forces do not need to field a single presidential candidate this time around. Quite the opposite, it says, they should “act with as many candidates as possible so that every voter finds a candidate to their liking and is not forced to reluctantly vote for Serzh Sarkisian as a lesser evil.” This will thwart Serzh Sarkisian’s plans to win reelection in the first round of voting, according to the pro-opposition daily.
Hovannes Manukian, Armenia’s ambassador to Georgia, tells “Aravot” that a Georgian law adopted in 2004 allowed law-enforcement authorities to prosecute well-known crime figures even if they don’t commit crimes. “This was the beginning of uprooting that mafia mentality,” he says. “In my view, the main result of the police reform in Georgia is not the elimination of corruption within the system but the elimination of the mafia mentality from the public consciousness.”