Press commentary on Friday’s rally organized by the opposition Hanrapetutyun party is as diverse as the political orientation of Armenian newspapers.
“Golos Armenia” puts the number of protesters demanding Robert Kocharian’s resignation at only three thousand. It says speakers at the rally “did not distinguish themselves with a strong oratorical skill” and basically repeated traditional accusations directed at the current authorities.
Using Kocharian’s terminology, the government-controlled “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” tells the opposition not to “poison the country’s public life for the sake of personal ambitions.”
Another pro-government paper, “Hayots Ashkhar,” says many of the Hanrapetutyun leaders used to hold senior government posts and did not seem to care about the people. But it admits that Hanrapetutyun’s chairman, former Yerevan mayor Albert Bazeyan, is a good speaker.
Papers supporting the opposition give a totally different assessment of the rally. “Aravot” puts the turnout at 12,000 and says the action “exceeded expectations of both the organizers and the authorities.” “The demonstration initiated by Hanrapetutyun was more than encouraging in the sense that, contrary to the dominant view, the society is not as passive and dormant as the authorities think.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also says that the protest action was “more successful than expected.” “The process of Robert Kocharian’s removal from power has had a serious start,” it concludes.
In another report, “Haykakan Zhamanak” says the government’s expectations of a major influx of tourists into Armenia do not seem to be materializing. It is already clear for the paper that less than 150,000 tourists (the government’s target number) will visit Armenia this year. The pro-government media is beginning to blame the lower-than-expected number of mostly Diaspora Armenian visitors on the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
This is what Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian tells “Hayots Ashkhar.” He says the government hoped that the tourist boom would add a few percentage points to the GDP growth this year. But the number of visitors from the United States “has fallen sharply” since September 11.