“Within the framework of the constitutional referendum, Armenia’s authorities have decided to use their government levers in an open and uninhibited manner for the first time ever,” writes “Zhoghovurd.” The paper says that until now the authorities have only covertly capitalized on their administrative resources to ensure desired outcomes of Armenian elections and referendums. “Officials engaged in election campaigns went on vacation and declared, if necessary, that they will not wield any government positions for the duration of their leave,” it says. “Of course, everyone realized that these are mere statements that have nothing to do with reality. Even so, the non-use of administrative resources was at least formally observed.” The paper suggests that the authorities may now be testing a “new approach” with an eye towards Armenia’s next parliamentary elections due in 2017.
“Zhamanak” also looks at the official involvement of many senior government officials, including Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and the chief of President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff, in the Yes campaign for the December 6 referendum. The paper dismisses their assurances that they will take part in the campaign only after work. It says that in fact the Armenian government will be busy “painting” referendum results for the next month.
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” scoffs at government’s stated efforts to boost public trust in the freedom and fairness of the upcoming referendum on Sarkisian’s constitutional changes. The paper argues that Sarkisian and his political allies in parliament are rejecting opposition proposals to put in place safeguards against multiple voting by tens of thousands of Armenians who have no passports. It says this alone is enough to preclude popular trust in the process.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” meanwhile, warns of opposition forces which it believes will try to use the referendum for “destabilizing the situation in the country.” The paper says that for all their talk of regime change their main aim now is not to topple the current government. “December 6 will only be a dress rehearsal [for them,] and the main events will unfold during the parliamentary elections of 2017,” it says. “That’s when they will really attempt a coup d’etat.”
“168 Zham” hails the latest report by Freedom House documenting a high degree of Internet freedom in Armenia. “Our authorities deserve praise for not following in the footsteps of their Eurasian partners Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus as well as Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan to restrict the Internet,” writes the paper. It sees a similarly high degree of government respect for freedom of speech and assembly. Nevertheless, it says, Armenia remains only a “façade democracy.”