(Saturday, June 5)
“Aravot” reports that an “unprecedented number” of police and interior troops guarded President Robert Kocharian’s residence during Friday’s opposition demonstration in Yerevan. It was the first rally held after the entry into force of Armenia’s new, controversial law on public gatherings. The authorities used the law to ban the protest but did nothing to thwart it. “Force was apparently due to be used in case of a march [towards the presidential palace], but a march did not take place.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says Friday’s rally was the smallest of all opposition protests staged this year. “To say that this was a surprise would be wrong because the press made substantiated forecasts at least a month ago regarding the decline of the opposition movement,” the paper says. “But the opposition leaders seem to be ignoring the fact that the square has been emptying and are not quite inclined to take steps to stop the process.” Armenia is thus entering “a period of political apathy where there is no effective government in the country, there is no effective opposition.” The current opposition leadership is lacking the “intellectual, psychological, political and ideological” skills to topple even a weak government, according to “Haykakan Zhamanak.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” says that the Armenian opposition is pinning its hopes only on external support and is therefore trying to create more reasons for “the interference in our country’s internal affairs at the upcoming session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.” The paper accuses the opposition of seeking to “put their own country in an even more difficult [international] position.” It urges the government and all “healthy” political forces to “neutralize the symptoms of the Strasbourg disease” by forming “a new political field.”
Interviewed by “Hayots Ashkhar,” one of the opposition figures, Vazgen Manukian, says that the authorities have behaved more “aggressively” than the opposition throughout the political confrontation. Manukian also makes the point that the Council of Europe’s pressure on the authorities to honor their membership obligations is not an interference in Armenia’s internal affairs. “The country is still not abiding by the European rules of the game,” he says. “In particular, the recently passed law on rallies, demonstrations and marches is just terrible.”
According to “Azg,” ordinary people who have attended the anti-government protests deserve the greatest sympathy. “Having descended into an extreme social plight because of the authorities, they are forced to believe promises that are being given for years but never become a reality,” the paper says.