(Saturday, October 4)
“Aravot” says Constitutional Court chairman Gagik Harutiunian underscored his trademark political opportunism on Friday when he played down the court’s April call for a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian. The paper says the idea was floated at the time because Harutiunian was not sure that Kocharian will cling to power. “Now things are different. Forecasts that the opposition will have a majority in parliament have not materialized, while the people quickly resigned themselves [to Kocharian’s victory] and stopped demanding justice. Gagik Harutiunian’s desire to play the role of an objective and impartial judge has completely disappeared.” Harutiunian now needs to please Kocharian in order to keep his job.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also believes that Harutiunian is no longer willing to apply law to the disputed elections. According to his logic, the paper says, the fact that “people don’t go for each others’ throats” means that everything is all right. Harutiunian thereby effectively blamed the opposition and the public for the failure of the proposed referendum. “Harutiunian hints that our society is not prepared to defend its interests and it is just meaningless to blame the Constitutional Court,” the paper concludes.
“The fact that people don’t slaughter each other does not mean that there is no standoff,” opposition lawmaker Stepan Zakarian tells “Ayb-Fe.” Zakarian says the call for a referendum was made by the Constitutional Court, not Harutiunian. It should therefore remain in force. “The court was not guided by public mood,” he says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Stepan Demirchian’s Artarutyun bloc will decide its future strategy after its next protest rally in Yerevan scheduled for October 17. “If we can gather at least 50,000 or 60,000 people on October 17, we will definitely stage a march to the presidential palace,” an unnamed leader of the bloc tells paper. “And if that many people show up, our rallies will proceed continuously and we will hold a demonstration every Friday.” But the campaign of street protests will be suspended if Artarutyun fails to draw a large crowd, the oppositionist adds.
A prominent member of the bloc, Vazgen Manukian, tells “Aravot” that the opposition hopes to use the street protests for forcing the parliament to agree to a nationwide vote of confidence in Kocharian. He says the parliament’s pro-Kocharian majority will make corresponding amendments to Armenia’s law on referendum only under strong popular pressure. The opposition will also address socioeconomic problems such the recent increase in some consumer prices, Manukian says.