The Armenian press is largely skeptical about government plans to set up the office of a state ombudsman responsible for preventing human rights abuses. Newspapers fear that the move, demanded by the Council of Europe, will prove useless.
“Aravot” adds to this the fact that President Kocharian’s proposed constitutional changes introducing the post of ombudsman did not win sufficient public support in the May referendum. “Public and in particular human rights organizations reckon that it makes no sense to create the new institution of ombudsman if he too will be appointed by the president,” the paper says. “Who needs that when each of us knows how ‘effectively’ the presidential commission which was supposed to protect human rights has worked? Its chairman (Hovannes Asrian) protected tooth and nail the authorities just as they resorted to repression against peaceful protesters in the post-election period.”
In general, “Aravot” continues, Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe was “premature” just like the new laws demanded by the Strasbourg-based body. “In our country, other ‘institutions’ and laws, which have nothing to do with democracy, are more relevant,” it concludes.
In an interview with “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Transport and Communication Minister Andranik Manukian denies rumors that some government ministers and parliamentarians affiliated with the Republican Party (HHK) will soon defect to his Solidarity party with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s blessing. Manukian claims that his relations with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian are “very friendly.” He says those rumors may be spread by members of the HHK and the two other coalition parties.
“Golos Armenii” bemoans reports that the State Committee on State Property Management is likely to be dissolved in two years because there will be nothing to be privatized by that time. The paper says this means that there will be no reversal of “illegal” privatization deals cut by the current and former authorities. “Today we can assess all the lies of the privatizers who claimed that privatization means returning wealth to the people.” Armenia’s business elite has built up its fortunes by buying state enterprises at knock-down prices and will never allow a redistribution of that property. That elite is the main support base of the current regime, according to “Golos Armenii.”
“Everybody knows that if these authorities have decided to punish one of the [business] oligarchs, then it is crystal clear that the latter is undesirable for them or has probably upset one of the royal bodyguards,” writes “Ayb-Fe.” “By punishing an undesirable oligarch the authorities not only fail to tackle lawlessness but also increasingly contribute to their cronies’ impunity.”