“Yerkir” dismisses government assurances that Armenia’s banking sector is not in crisis. “If everything is fine, then why are things so bad?” it asks.
“Iravunk” sees a regrouping of the main political parties. “Everybody is preparing for a decisive pre-election attack, seeking to amass the maximum quantity of electoral resources before the polls. And it can not be asserted for certain that Robert Kocharian’s and his camp’s victory in the elections is guaranteed.” For one thing, “the revanchist opposition” is now rapidly consolidating. But the paper claims that the authorities are interested in having such opposition because its leaders are discredited and do not stand for the change of the existing political system.
“Hayots Ashkhar” expects a “serious and complex struggle” in 2003 between the two camps: the current and former authorities. It says the latter are unlikely to put forward Levon Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy for the presidential elections. More likely, it says, is the candidacy of former prime minister Armen Sarkisian.
“Aravot” brings out more evidence of the personal wealth of senior Armenian officials. On its page one the paper prints the photograph of the three-story mansion of Hovannses Yeritsian, the controversial civil aviation chief.
“Haykakan Zhamanak,” whose editor Nikol Pashinian is facing prosecution at the behest of Yeritsian, continues to allege that the civil aviation sector is mired in corruption and mismanagement. The paper lists the names of Yeritsian’s relatives who it says have lucrative jobs in the sector.
Tobacco magnate Hrant Vartanian criticizes the government’s economic policy in an interview with “Hayots Ashkhar.” He also says he is concerned about the scale of income disparity in the country. “The wealthy 20 percent segment of the population is getting even richer…, while the poor 80 percent are getting poorer. Such a polarization will either leave the rich without a public or the people will revolt and there will be big upheavals.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the leader of doctoral students who were protesting a government decision to draft them to the army was beaten to death in his military unit last week. Artem Sarkisian was found dead in a military base in the city of Vanadzor. The paper says Sarkisian’s violent death has even more ominous implications for the country’s future tham the September murder in a Yerevan café.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also reports that the Armenian Review Court on Thursday upheld the acquittal of a senior member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group. The man, Levon Markarian, was cleared of “enticing” minors into the cult. The paper says his acquittal is a rare example of Armenian courts defying prosecutors.
However, “Azg,” “Yerkir,” “Hayots Ashkhar” and “Iravunk,” which are openly hostile to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, denounce the not guilty verdict. “The victory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a defeat for our state,” screams “Hayots Ashkhar.”
The International Women’s Day, which is a public holiday in Armenia, draws bizarre and potentially controversial comments from “Zhamanak,” the weekly newspaper of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party. Extolling the virtues of Armenian women, “Zhamanak” guards against the perceived dangers of mixed marriages. The paper claims that only those countries whose citizens are members of a homogenous ethnic group can become “prosperous and happy.” “Indeed, a child born to parents representing different ethnic groups is devoid of an instinct of national blood and has no idea about patriotism,” it editorializes. Mixed marriages produce “cosmopolites” who are keen to “destroy patriots.” Cosmopolitism is a “Jewish phenomenon,” “Zhamanak” continues before voicing traditional anti-Semitic accusations.