The presidential press secretary, Vahe Gabrielian, tells "Hayots Ashkhar" that Robert Kocharian does not intend to respond to strong personal attacks made by Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the opposition National Unity party. According to Gabrielian, Geghamian's increasingly tough anti-presidential rhetoric shows that he is "desperate" after failing to get substantial political dividends and a good chance of coming to power. "Geghamian's tactics of scoring into his own goal is succeeding. We have no desire to step in," the spokesman notes with glee.
"Hayots Ashkhar" and "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" carry more remarks by various army generals who endorse Kocharian's claims that the opposition's Vagharshak Harutiunian was not fit to serve as defense minister in 1999-2000.
But as "Aravot" asks in an editorial, if Harutiunian was really incompetent, why did Kocharian appoint him as defense minister? Was he "forced by Vazgen [Sarkisian]" to do so? In that case, many other ministers in the current government could also be portrayed as incompetent by Kocharian just because he had to name them for one reason or another. "This campaign is primarily damaging Robert Kocharian and the generals who are acting like propaganda vehicles. It is not the general's job to join the thankless effort of discrediting the president's political opponents."
"Haykakan Zhamanak" writes that those generals are themselves mired in corruption and other illegal activities. The paper accuses them of "engaging in economic activity from the position of force" and says the authorities had opened criminal cases against at least three of them. One of the deputy defense ministers, General Artur Aghabekian, faced a criminal inquiry in 1993 on suspicion of killing two Armenian soldiers on the Karabakh frontline. The probe was never completed. Another vice-minister, General Mikael Grigorian, is said to have left his soldiers and "run away"
from the Armenian positions during the 1994 winter offensive of the Azerbaijani army. General Haykaz Baghmanian, who now commands an army corps, was expelled by Vagharshak Harutiunian from the military in 1999 after assaulting a business competitor. Another general who denounced Harutiunian in the pro-Kocharian press, Arshaluys Paytian, spent several months under arrest in 1995 on charges of smuggling weapons into neighboring Georgia.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, meanwhile, is reported to condemn the alleged beating of a member of his Miasnutyun parliament faction in police custody. But "Haykakan Zhamanak" says the Miasnutyun leader, Galust Sahakian, "continues to deny the fact of the incident."
"Or" comments that if Armenia was a rule-of-law state, either Yerevan police chief Ashot Gizirian or his alleged victim, deputy Gevorg Hakobian, would be brought to justice. But the Armenian prosecutors are not even investigating the July 9 incident.
In an interview with "Hayots Ashkhar," Dashnaktsutyun leader Vahan Hovannisian criticizes Kocharian for allowing the recent changes in Armenia's election law which increased the share of parliament seats contested in single-mandate constituencies. But he says his party has refrained from actively protesting against the changes to avoid a destabilization of the political situation in the country. "Having said that, the principle of reciprocity must be respected in any partnership. Otherwise problems could arise," Hovannisian warns. Asked whether he will run for president in next year's elections, Hovannisian replies: "Nothing should be ruled out."