Interviewed by “Aravot,” human rights activist Avetik Ishkhanian discusses reasons for the Armenian parliament’s failure to adopt a bill restricting RFE/RL broadcasts in Armenia. He says the development showed that many Armenians are wrong to think that “the government will do everything it wants.” “A lot depends on how active the public is,” says Ishkhanian.
“The reason [for the bill’s collapse] was not so much the political pressure exerted by the United States as messages sent to the Armenian authorities through the same diplomatic channels,” speculates “Iravunk.” “They contained thinly veiled hints that if Armenia has decided to follow its northern neighbor’s example and derail the democratization process, then official Washington will publicize the names of those high-ranking officials who are deeply mired in the web of corruption and criminal business. It referred, first of all, to money laundering, of which trade in arms and drug trafficking are classical manifestations.” The paper claims that this is what kept the Armenian authorities from blocking RFE/RL broadcasts for the time being.
In a separate report, “Iravunk” says officials from President Robert Kocharian’s administrations told the two main pro-presidential parties, Prosperous Armenia and Dashnaktsutyun, to leave it to Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) to pass the anti-RFE/RL bill in the final reading. “Thus, if the bill had been passed, full responsibility for that would have been placed on the HHK, which would have had to face the resulting consequences,” says the paper. “Clearly, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian would have needed a lot of time to assure American partners of his loyalty. Under such a scenario, Robert Kocharian would have also gotten an opportunity to drastically boost his clout in the outside world.” All of which, continues the paper, suggests that “the intra-governmental discord in Armenia is not resolved” and that the Kocharian camp could take more steps to “put the prime minister in an awkward situation.”
“Hayk” comes up with a similar conspiracy theory, calling the failure of the government bill a massive blow to Sarkisian and the HHK and claiming that Kocharian seems undecided about who should succeed him as president of the republic. The opposition paper too believes that the absence of many Prosperous Armenia and Dashnaktsutyun deputies from Tuesday’s parliament vote was not accidental. “Although Serzh Sarkisian has fancied himself as the government camp’s sole presidential candidate for the past several months, it is very likely that at some point … the regime’s reserve candidates will enter the fray on Robert Kocharian’s orders,” says the paper. It says the Kocharian camp is already busy undercutting Sarkisian and “reducing his already low rating.”