(Saturday, July 22)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” describes as “sensational” the last-minute cancellation of President Robert Kocharian’s visit to Moscow, dismissing the official explanation for the move. “It has to be admitted that Kocharian has cause for such concern, but it is not only and not so much the HHK congress as the behavior of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. In an interview with Radio Liberty, the defense minister effectively wiped out Kocharian,” the paper says, pointing to Sarkisian’s remark that Kocharian or his spokesman will publicly endorse his decision to team up with the Republicans. It claims that Sarkisian broke the rules of government subordination in a move that “smacks of a coup.”
By publicly supporting Sarkisian’s alliance with the HHK, continues “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Kocharian would only bolster the governing party and deal a heavy blow to the Prosperous Armenia party of Gagik Tsarukian. The paper also comments on Sarkisian’s endorsement of the OSCE Minsk Group’s plan to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “This is a clear message to the West [to the effect] that ‘If Kocharian doesn’t solve the problem, I will; if Kocharian doesn’t have a support base, I do; and the nationalists hampering the conflict’s resolution are all under my control.”
“Everyone in Armenia knows that Prosperous Armenia was set up with the aim of bolstering Kocharian and is his main support base,” writes “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” “But there goes Serzh Sarkisian declaring that such a party does not yet exist. In reality, the party has existed for a while and published its program. Leaders of that party have said that nearly 200,000 people have applied for membership in the party. Serzh Sarkisian, however, was so courteous that he is sending a message to Kocharian: you have no other support base and I am the man.”
“Zhamanak Yerevan” also links Kocharian’s failure to attend the CIS summit in Moscow to domestic Armenian politics and the Karabakh peace process, saying that the move will reflect negatively on “the capacity of his team.” The paper is convinced that the “acute respiratory illness” cited by the presidential press service was not enough of a reason for Kocharian to spurn an opportunity to once rub shoulders with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“Hayots Ashkhar” hails Sarkisian’s alliance with the HHK as contributing to political stability in Armenia and its “evolutionary development.” “The Republican Party is aspiring to the pivotal role of a system leader that could become a full-fledged center of the political stage without claiming a monopoly on power,” says the paper sympathetic to Sarkisian.
“It is no secret that after the parliamentary elections of 2007 real power will be passed on to the prime minister and the chairman of the National Assembly, while the president of the country will have more modest powers and play the role of the Queen of England,” writes “Golos Armenii.”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” says the Armenian opposition does not seem to realize what the paper sees as negative implications of the latest political developments for the freedom and fairness of the 2007 elections.