The unfolding debates in the Armenian parliament on the 2002 budget give “Aravot” a sense of deja vu. The government is again calling its budget bill a “realistic” one after again failing to reduce the backlog of expenditure arrears piled up over the past years. The paper has no doubts that the government will again fail to meet its fiscal targets next year and the public sector will not get even the measly sums earmarked by the parliament.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze’s arrival in Yerevan by train was a symbolic “political gesture” given the key issue on the agenda of her visit: the possible reopening of the Abkhaz section of the Sochi-Tbilisi-Yerevan railway. The paper says Russian officials told senior Armenian parliamentarians last week to raise the issue with the Georgian authorities, saying that Moscow is ready to guarantee safe passage of trains through Abkhazia.
“The process of a slow and painful review of foreign policy priorities is underway in Georgia,” says “Hayots Ashkhar.” “This fact can not fail to have an impact on Georgian-Armenian relations.” The Georgian authorities now want to complement their pro-Western orientation with warmer ties with Moscow and Yerevan. The reopening of the railway thus acquires a new urgency for them. In that regard, the paper pins big hopes on Burjanadze, describing her as a “pragmatic politician free of prejudice” towards Armenians.
HZhK leader Stepan Demirchian’s ongoing trip to the United States continues to cause a stir in the Armenian press. “Hayots Ashkhar” hits back at “Aravot” claims that its attacks on Demirchian were ordered by the authorities. (“Hayots Ashkhar” said Demirchian travelled to America to raise funds for his anti-government activities.) The paper also slams Transport Minister Andranik Manukian for defending the Demirchian family against “defamatory” press reports.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Demirchian was invited by the Ramkavar Azatakan party, the second largest political group in the Armenian Diaspora. “The Ramkavars wanted to understand whether or not he can unseat Robert Kocharian and become president. This is a crucial issue for that party because it loves singing odes to the incumbent presidents.”
“Zhamanak” believes that if parliamentary elections were to take place in Armenia now no party would win a majority. This, according to the newspaper of the governing Republican Party, is a strong argument against Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic. Armenians can not have major achievements as a nation if they are governed by a collective body (e.g., a coalition government), the paper reasons.