“Haykakan Zhamanak” describes as “sensational” the previous night’s visit to Yerevan by Aslan Abashidze, the autocratic leader of Georgia’s Autonomous Republic of Ajaria. The paper suggests that the main purpose of Abashidze’s trip was to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov who was on a visit to Yerevan. “Besides, political observers believe that Abashidze may have asked [President] Kocharian to send troops to Georgia for stabilizing the situation,” it claims. “Especially given the fact that Georgia’s incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze had turned to [former Armenian President Levon] Ter-Petrosian with a similar request in the past.”
“Azg,” citing Shevardnadze’s press office, says Kocharian voiced his “full support” to the beleaguered Georgian president during their phone conversation on Tuesday. Kocharian is also said to have stressed that the vast majority of Georgia’s Armenians voted for Shevardnadze’s party in the November 2 election. The paper disputes this claim, however. “True, mainly the country’s two largest ethnic minorities voted for the Shevardnadze-led bloc -- Azerbaijanis (about 90 percent) and Armenians (about 70 percent). But this support was mainly secured through ‘black’ propaganda, blackmail and overt threats.”
“With their 2003 elections, the three Transcaucasian republics have made it clear to the European structures that they are not quite democratic,” “Azg” continues. “Europe has equally condemned vote falsifications in all three countries, measuring them with the same yardstick.”
“Aravot” says Armenia will not be regarded as a “civilized” nation by the Europeans as long as it fails to hold democratic elections. Armenia will have the next chance to prove its European credentials only four years later. In the meantime, it will face constant pressure from the Council of Europe to pass more laws and take other policy measures.
The Council of Europe’s calls for democratic elections, abolition of capital punishment, legalization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and decriminalization of libel offences are branded “silly” by “Hayots Ashkhar.” “Europe is definitely sick,” editorializes the pro-Kocharian paper. “Enough is enough. It is time to punch Europe in its affluent muzzle, run away to the mountains and get in touch with our roots and origins.”
“Aravot,” on the other hand, complains about the presence of Russian troops in Armenia, saying that it is becoming increasingly costly. The paper refers to the Armenian government’s decision to pay the Russian troops’ utility bills, totaling some $1.2 million per annum, from next January.
The sum is equivalent to the annual salary of 2,500 Armenian schoolteachers, notes “Haykakan Zhamanak.” “We think that our teachers laid off [as a result of the government’s recent education cost-cutting] will understand our authorities’ steps,” the paper says with irony. “After all, the 5,000-strong Russian base neutralizes the threat posed by the Turkish janissaries. It’s worth remaining uneducated for the sake of that.”
In an interview with “Ayb-Fe,” the controversially reelected prefect of Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district, Artsrun Khachatrian, hits back at allegations of vote rigging and other verbal attacks made by his Republican Party rivals, notably Galust Sahakian. “If he calls me a fool, then is an absolute mug because he was defeated by a fool,” he says.