Interviewed by “Hayk,” Aram Manukian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), insists that riot troops attacked opposition protesters camped in Yerevan’s Liberty Square early on March 1 “without any warnings, without saying anything.” “I again state that the police did not present any demands to the demonstrators and began the beating of unarmed people abruptly,” he says.
“If Levon Ter-Petrosian cared about the problem of [opposition] detainees, why didn’t he visit the family any of the detained individuals?” asks “Hayots Ashkhar.” “Why isn’t he taking part in protest actions organized by relatives of the detainees? And finally, why didn’t they form a fund to support political prisoners?” The paper also blames Ter-Petrosian for hunger strikes declared by many of the arrested oppositionists. “Ter-Petrosian’s calls for the release of political prisoners are a gimmick,” it says, “In reality, he wants those people to remain in prison for a long time so that he can constantly demand their release.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the structure of most Armenian parties mirrors that of the country’s political system. “They are authoritarian, lack real democracy, while the leaders of parties are irresponsible,” says the paper. It argues that the vast majority of party leaders have long been at the helm without facing any challenge to their leadership. That is the reason why, it says, many of them get one or two percent of the vote in parliamentary elections.
“Aravot” hits out at Dashnaktsutyun leader Hrant Markarian for alleging that Ter-Petrosian’s post-election demonstrations in Yerevan were part of a Western conspiracy to foment a “color revolution” in Armenia. “That is, for the past ten years Armenia was steadily moving towards democracy, general prosperity and a pro-Armenian solution to the Karabakh problem, but some malicious centers didn’t like that,” the paper comments sarcastically. “And so they found Levon [Ter-Petrosian], gave him money and tried to stem the brilliant course of our country.” The paper notes that the talk of foreign conspiracy came from the top leader of a party half of whose governing board is made up of foreign nationals.
“Iskakan Iravunk” is highly skeptical about Armenia’s new governing coalition and its overwhelming majority in parliament. The paper points to the hasty adoption on March 17 of severe restrictions on freedom of assembly and the parliament majority’s “equally hasty” decision to scrap some of those restrictions under pressure from the Council of Europe. “If the parliament was a [real] parliament, then either the first or the second changes [in the Armenian law on rallies] would not occur,” it says.