“Haykakan Zhamanak” claims that Armenia’s leadership has decided to expand the ruling coalition by including in it representatives of the parliament’s non-partisan People’s Deputy group and the United Labor Party (MAK) of businessman Gurgen Arsenian. The paper says they will each get two ministerial portfolios at the expense of the Republican, Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun parties. “Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir will initially resist this plan by threatening to walk away from the coalition,” it speculates. “The threat, however, will not have a serious effect as the Republican Party, the People’s Deputy and the MAK can form a parliamentary majority even without Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir.”
The Republican leader in the National Assembly, Galust Sahakian, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that his position on the coalition expansion is “unequivocally positive.” “I will not only welcome it but will do everything to make sure that it happens,” Sahakian says. As for Dashnaktsutyun, one of its leaders, Armen Rustamian, does not rule out such a scenario. The People’s Deputy leader Karen Karapetian refused to comment.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian says in “Golos Armenii” that he is satisfied with the current coalition’s track record. “The ministers appointed by the three parties are diligently carrying out their duties,” he says, hoping that coalition-building will take roots in Armenian politics. Markarian also plays down periodical attempts by Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun to distance themselves from government policies. “I am sure that there will be no such manifestations in the coming year,” he says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” notes that the package of government changes to Armenia’s tax legislation was backed in parliament on Wednesday even by those businessman deputies who harshly criticized it in the course of the previous three weeks. Many of them even voted for their absent colleagues. This is construed by the paper as another indication that “the government’s lever of influence on business are inexhaustible.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” quotes a parliament deputy from the Artarutyun bloc, Hrant Khachatrian, as saying that for all their differences and mutual dislike, Artarutyun and the opposition National Unity Party must be “at the same side of the barricade” because the authorities leave them with no other choice. He believes that regime change in Armenia is “inevitable.”
Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekian tells “Aravot” that ordinary Armenians themselves must decide whether they need a referendum on an internationally sponsored plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He says that they can easily conclude that they have already held a referendum by reelecting Robert Kocharian as president. Asked about his vision of a Karabakh settlement, he replies: “That must not interest an Armenian officer. We care only about one thing: we must have a combat-ready army and be able to maintain the existing situation with our combat-readiness so that Azerbaijan’s leaders never think about resolving the Karabakh problem by force or a resumption of hostilities.”